36th Parliament, 1st Session

L107 - Thu 10 Oct 1996 / Jeu 10 Oct 1996










































The House met at 1103.




Mr Hudak moved private member's notice of motion number 26:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should strongly urge the government of Canada to invest at least two cents of the 10-cents-per-litre federal excise fuel tax to support the creation of a strong and viable national highway network through Ontario, and that the government of Ontario should devote similar resources to said highway network through Ontario.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): This resolution comes about from some experiences over the past year and a half in government, through my work in the Niagara Peninsula, my riding of Niagara South. It also follows more recently on a meeting that Minister Palladini and I had with the federal committee on transportation, trade and tourism. The meeting took place in Hamilton. The minister and I were trying to get the federal government to contribute what we would call its fair share to a national highway system through Ontario.

I believe my constituents will strongly support me in this: that the federal government should recognize Ontario's key role in any federal trade and transportation strategy. In other words, Ontario is a linchpin of the highway network we have through Canada. A considerable amount of trade and tourism already comes through Ontario, especially through the Niagara Peninsula and Windsor, and any formulation of a federal policy in trade and tourism should definitely recognize Ontario's key role.

At the same time, we wanted to stress in that meeting on Monday with the federal committee that there are also some extraordinary economic opportunities presented by a national highway system through Ontario, in terms of tourism development, trade development and, of course, job creation from that point; key also, which has motivated me to present this resolution, to the Niagara Peninsula and economic development in the Niagara Peninsula.

Canada is the only major industrialized nation without some kind of national highway program. Having spent some time travelling across Canada and the States, you can see a very consistent and strong national highway system of interstates through the USA. The federal government's share of the national highway system in Canada is only a 6% contribution rate, which in my opinion, and I hope in the opinion of this House, is a dismal rating when compared to Australia, for example, similar in mass and similar in government, where they have a 50% contribution from the feds; Germany, 36%; and as I said, the United States, with a very strong interstate network, around 30%.

In the federal context and how it breaks down in Ontario, if you look at how our NAFTA partners are doing, the US is very strong. It has a very strong interstate network. They've devoted US$121 billion to the interstate routes throughout the United States and to their border crossings, the major cities and the capitals.

Mexico, which doesn't have the economic strength of Canada or the strong democracy we have in Canada, and certainly not anywhere near the size of the economy we have in Canada, even Mexico -- some members of the House may not be aware of this and they should be -- has committed 7,000 kilometres of new highways to their own national highway system to help them benefit from trade through NAFTA and tourism. That works out to a $10-billion investment. They expect to have huge economic opportunities here.

I fear that without a similar national strategy in Canada, with Ontario as its linchpin, Canada may become the poor partner in NAFTA. I feel it's clear that the federal government should establish a national highway program, because it's critical to the future growth of trade and tourism throughout Canada, throughout Ontario and, most importantly for me, throughout the Niagara Peninsula. It helps us get the goods to market on time; efficient and dependable delivery of goods. Especially with some 90% of the goods for export using transport trucks, you cut down travel time significantly.

Most importantly, over 50 cents of any tourist dollar is spent on transportation. Again, considering what I see as a large influx of tourism into the Niagara Peninsula due to Casino Niagara coming into the Niagara Peninsula, the improvements at the Fort Erie Race Track and some improvements we're working on in Port Colborne in my riding, we need a very strong national highway system, especially through southern Ontario, to take advantage of these opportunities.

Let me give you some numbers; for example, 64% of the $150 billion in land trade between Canada and the States goes through the Niagara Peninsula or Windsor. My riding has the QEW and Highway 3 through it. In fact, 30,000 vehicles a day in this most recent August came across the Peace Bridge and went up the QEW or up Highway 3 along Lake Erie.


The Peace Bridge is scheduled to twin beginning in 1999. It's a $200-million private sector investment. It's the second busiest border crossing in Canada, as a matter of fact, and it's going to get even busier with twin spans. What that sets up is a six-lane crossing into the States and a six-lane bridge at Burlington. I would like to see some money devoted into the peninsula for a six-lane QEW all the way from the foot of the Peace Bridge through Burlington towards Toronto.

In the States, they're moving towards the expansion of Highway 219, which will start out in Buffalo, move down into the major northeastern corridor, which consists of Boston, Washington, Baltimore, New York City and then further down to Atlanta, Georgia, a massive trade and tourism market that we could connect from Toronto, down the QEW, through Niagara, across the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie to Buffalo, to this massive market.

You could also envision a mid-peninsula corridor -- the CAA is talking about this, and some major industries -- that's going to take the traffic up through Highway 403, also through Windsor and into the States to Michigan and possibly down to Mexico for trade routes.

You can envision a very strong national highway system which would be the NAFTA highway of prosperity. We have a very strong interest locally in it and a very strong interest provincially, and I guess I would just like to see the feds contribute a fair share. I'm not asking for a pot of gold. That's what I said to the committee: It's not a pot of gold.

They have a 10-cents-per-litre fuel tax, as the members well know. It's in the resolution. I'm asking for a minimum, and I think it's a rather modest request, of two cents out of the 10 cents that they take from Ontario motorists through the fuel tax, to put that back into the Ontario highway system. Some $2 billion a year that Ontario motorists shell out at the pump goes to the federal coffers, but barely a dime, metaphorically, goes back into Ontario highways. It goes to the east coast, some interprovincial transfers and maybe some to Quebec, but not nearly enough, not close to enough back into Ontario's highways.

I understand and support the federal government's movement towards a balanced budget. They're making some progress on that and I encourage them to proceed and to complete balancing the budget. But at the same time, I'd like to see a redirection of existing funds. It's $2 billion that comes out of the Ontario motorists' pockets; let's put it back into the highways. Let's put it back for the benefit of the motorists, and then trade and tourism and some job growth once more. That's what I feel about recognizing Ontario's fair share. How much does Ontario put into the federal coffers through the gas tax? Let's get some of that back.

Due to time constraints, I'll leave some of the spending items to Jerry Ouellette, the hardworking parliamentary assistant for transportation. I know Jerry's going to talk about what his work with Minister Palladini has been in repairing the highways in Ontario.

From my perspective in Niagara, it was rather a rough spring because due to the thaws in the wintertime, the QEW was in rough shape. There were a lot of calls to my office, and for every call to my office, a similar call went to Minister Palladini from the Tim Hudak action centre in Stevensville directly to the Minister of Transportation. Al said he was working on it, "You're going to get the money." He had to finish that highway he was working on.

Then Bart Maves from Niagara Falls, a very hardworking member for the Falls, also has the QEW through his riding; similar calls. Tom Froese, also here today, I'm sure was working to get some highway money put in our area, and Frank Sheehan. I'm fully confident --

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): And Ron Johnson of Brantford.

Mr Hudak: You know the QEW then. I'm fully confident that Peter Kormos and Jim Bradley also were very positive in working with the Minister of Transportation to get the money in that area, and we were successful.

Minister Palladini freed up $160 million from the budget. It's tough to do with Finance Minister Ernie Eves, but Minister Palladini, with our support in Niagara, got that $160 million extra. He pumped $50 million into Niagara, and in fact 30% of that money into the riding of Niagara South, and we're certainly grateful for that.

So the Queen E is coming along well now. We've got a traffic light in Port Colborne at 140 and 3. But my feeling certainly is that we have to go farther with that. I think it's high time the federal government started contributing its share of the federal gas tax back into Ontario, back into Niagara, with the long-term goal of job creation, tourism, transportation strategy. That's certainly why I'm putting forward this resolution, and I hope that my fellow members today in the House will offer their strong support in this measure, which we will then take to the federal government and pressure them for their fair share back to Ontario's highway network.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): It's interesting to hear the member for Niagara South, who basically is saying it's now the federal government's responsibility to take care of the disastrous highways in this province.

If you look at the resolution here, they're asking for federal taxes that are collected for gasoline to be dedicated towards Ontario roads. The member does not indicate he supports a fixed portion of the gasoline taxes collected by the province to go towards road maintenance. So here it is: Whether he likes it or not, the provincial highways are primarily a provincial responsibility. If you're asking the federal government to take a portion of the gas tax for highway reconstruction, why is your member not asking for a fixed portion of the Ontario taxes collected to go towards road reconstruction? Here we have a double standard, when it's a purely provincial responsibility.

I supported and put forth a resolution earlier this year that said there should be a highway investment fund that would go towards repair and reconstruction of roads. The members on the government side voted against it, yet now they're asking for the federal government to do what they should be doing. The roads in this province are your responsibility. Don't try and get it off your agenda. You should be supporting a fixed amount of the $1 billion that you collect. The Ministry of Transportation, your Ministry of Finance, collects $1 billion a year in gasoline tax, in licensing. What does it do with that $1 billion? A portion of that $1 billion should be dedicated in a highway trust fund for repairing and maintaining your highways.

As the Auditor General told you, 60% of the highways in this province are substandard, and if you drive across this province you'll see that they're in pathetic shape. What did your minister do? As soon as you were elected, you cut about $400 million from the transportation budget. The Auditor General told you 60% of the roads were in substandard condition. What did you do? You cut $400 million from the roads -- no wonder you have potholes all over this province; no wonder there was no road maintenance -- when you had that warning from the Auditor General.

In terms of what you're doing, you're telling the federal government to take care of your roads, when what you've done is you've offloaded about 2,000 kilometres of roads on to the local municipalities, which have had a 40% cut in their transfer payments. If you're so serious about roads, why would you be dumping all these roads on local municipalities, which don't have the money to do it?

It sure is easy to point your finger at the federal government and say, "Oh, you should be paying for our road reconstruction," when what you're doing is cutting your budget, what you're doing is basically offloading your responsibility on to local municipalities and local property taxpayers.

Then what are you doing to the whole long-term vision of transportation? No matter how many roads you build, you have to have an integrated, balanced transportation system. What this government has been doing over the last year and a half is systematically gutting part of the transportation system. Not only what they've done to the roads budgets; look what they've done to public transportation. They've cut GO Transit by about 25%, they've cut municipal transit in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in cities and towns across Ontario. No wonder the QEW is a parking lot, no wonder the 401 is a gridlock continually, it's because of what you've done. By cutting back subsidies on public transportation you've pushed more people into the cars. There are more cars on the highways, more congestion, more gridlock.


Part of the reason our roads are in such bad shape is you're pushing more and more cars and trucks on to the roads as you abandon public transportation. You can't just treat this problem of our highways and our transportation problems by a literal tunnel vision approach; it's got to be an integrated, comprehensive approach which gets people to use public transportation plus road transportation. You can't shirk this responsibility on to the feds. Before you know it, you'll be saying GO Transit should be subsidized by the federal government.

As you know, your minister announced last Thursday he is going to sell off GO Transit because he thinks the local municipalities should be picking up 25% of the cost. He thinks the private sector should be picking up the rest. So how is selling off GO Transit going to make it easier for commuters, business people and truckers to use our highways? It's going to push more of our commuters on to our highways because when you privatize GO Transit for sure there's going to be a cutback in service. You saw the proof of that in the disappearance of the Casino Rama express, the one the minister stood up here and praised the same day he was pulling the plug on it.

That is why you just can't blame the federal government for what is clearly a provincial responsibility. Before you know it, you'll also be asking the federal government to invest in local hospitals and schools. It's your responsibility primarily. You are in government, you took over the roads, don't whine about the federal government.

I have no problem with the federal government investing in a national transportation strategy, but what this resolution does is basically just whines and blames the feds. You have a responsibility, I tell the member for Niagara South. If you think it's so important, why don't you support the establishment of a fixed amount of money out of existing dollars collected by your government towards highway reconstruction and rehabilitation?

Your government refuses to do that. What's good enough for the feds is not good enough for you when the highways are your responsibility. If you want the feds to cooperate, you should be clear and say you support a fixed amount of money that goes into highway reconstruction maintenance. This is something that is done in all states except New Jersey. There's nothing wrong with doing that. That is the only way you're ever going to deal with the problem of our roads.

This is not something you can fix overnight or you can fix by blaming the federal government; you need a 10-year reinvestment plan. You just can't do it by blaming Ottawa. You have to have a highway trust fund where you get the money that is already collected, as I said, through the gasoline tax, through the transportation taxes and licensing. You have $1 billion you collect every year. Put some of that $1 billion in a fixed amount towards our highways.

Also invest in transportation. If you look at the congestion that exists in southern Ontario specifically, that congestion costs us $1 billion a year because companies delivering goods and services are delayed in traffic tie-ups. They have to buy more fuel because of traffic tie-ups. Sales people lose all kinds of time and money because of congestion. I ask any of you to say that we don't have a massive congestion and gridlock problem in the GTA in southern Ontario. We do. You're not going to solve that problem by just whining at Ottawa.

You have to put in a comprehensive investment strategy in road reconstruction from existing moneys you collect. I have nothing to say that is negative to saying Ottawa should maybe kick in too, but don't just say Ottawa should be doing it. You should have the same commitment that you asked Ottawa to have. You don't have it.

You've been cutting transportation budgets since you got into office and our roads show it. You know what they do on the 401? They've got so many potholes, all they do is mill the road, so it becomes like a roller-coaster effect on the highways. They think they're hiding the potholes. Wait till this winter when there are going to be more potholes, more snow-covered, ice-covered roads, because you still don't understand that you can't do more for less when you cut back on essential services like transportation. That's what you're seeing in the Niagara region. You're seeing it in Cornwall, you're seeing it in Kenora and Sudbury. They see the byproduct of your tax cut. You're taking money out of transportation to pay for that tax cut. You're taking money out of hospitals to pay for the tax cut.

You may be able to hide some of the soft services and those cuts; you can't hide the fact you've cut the roads budget because Ontarians drive those roads every day and no matter how much the whiz kids try to spin it and how much you blame the feds, people are blaming you for the state of our roads. Our roads and the congestion is a byproduct of your misguided, massive cuts to essential services like road maintenance and safety. So if you really want to do something that will perhaps get cooperation from the federal government, stand up and say that you will put aside a fixed amount of money every year out of the existing taxes that you collect. Put it into road reconstruction. Put it into a trust fund that won't go into general revenue.

As I say, 49 states do this. It works very well in the United States because you can't three years from now take from the fund and then pay for some hot political item. A 10-year fixed transit trust fund, that is what is needed. You can't have an ad hoc, every-three-months change in direction, "Oh, we're going to cut $600 million, we're going to cut $400 million, we're going to put $100 million back because the heat's on." You've got to have a comprehensive investment in roads because the Auditor General told you guys when you came to office the roads are in a disastrous state. What did you do? You cut the budget severely and that is not showing that you are serious about keeping our roads in good shape.

I want to make sure that the people of Ontario understand that the responsibility for highways is provincial and this government is either blaming Ottawa or blaming the municipalities now, because they've offloaded the roads on to them. Municipalities have been cut 40% in their grants from this government. How are they going to repair the roads they're offloading? How are they going to do it? They're going to say, "Oh, no, it was your local municipality's fault."

What we do need is an understanding that if we're going to have a cohesive transportation network in this province, you have to have a balanced approach. You can't sell off GO Transit and say, "Oh, we're going to now be serious about transportation." You need an investment strategy that says people should have a choice. If they don't want to use a car they should have a reasonable choice in public transportation. You are not giving them that choice because you've basically put the investment of public transportation on the back burner. You've cut back severely there and that is not going to solve your road congestion problem. Because the more people you can get on to GO -- you can imagine GO Transit, for instance; 140,000 people use it every day. If those 140,000 people got on the roads with cars, you can see the effect. In Metro alone there are about a million riders every day on public transportation. If those million riders weren't on public transportation, you can imagine the state of our roads.

So if you want good roads, and I think we all do want good roads, we have to invest in them, sure, but you can build highways till the cows come home and you won't solve the congestion problems. You have to have good highways, good roads and you have to have good subways, good buses and good trains.

This government has said, "We're going to blame Ottawa, we're going to offload the roads and we're going to cut public transportation." That is a miserable approach to solving the congestion gridlock that exists in southern Ontario. If this government is serious, let them support a highway trust fund that they would also put money aside for every year, and not fudge it and blame Ottawa.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): We encourage all the members of the House to support Mr Hudak's resolution regarding federal funding for our national highway system. I have to discuss a couple of comments the member opposite just made in that he was the one passing the blame to Ottawa and the federal government. There isn't any blame being passed here. All we're asking for is a fair share.

Also, why then do the feds collect gas taxes in the province of Ontario? To spend on the east coast? Maybe the member would support that, but we don't.

The member stated that the province collects $1 billion in gas taxes as well. Funny, the MTO budget is well over double that amount already.

In not addressing traffic tie-ups -- what do you call the 407? Those are some of the main concerns in this area, to deal with the traffic issues.

The member for Niagara South's concerns are valid. I'd like to explain why by providing the members with some background on the issue. Many of you may not realize that the federal government stopped funding the Trans-Canada national highway system back in 1970. Since then the only federal funding for provincial highways has been through temporary or regional cost-sharing agreements. These agreements, however, do not take into consideration the national significance of the highways in question, such as whether they carry interprovincial or international trade.

To address these concerns the federal, provincial and territorial governments cooperated to identify highways they considered significant to the entire country. They came up with some 25,000 kilometres of highways from coast to coast, what we now refer to as a national highway system. While what we know as a national highway system is only 3% of Canada's roads, it carries 80% of all traffic. These are the highways that promote business and help create jobs in our great country.

Within Ontario, our portion of the national highway system consists of some 5,000 kilometres of highways. That's one fifth of the entire network. Some of these are Highways 7, 11, 17 and 69.

Because the national highway system excludes existing highways with four or more lanes, some of Ontario's most important routes do not meet the criteria for federal funding. Those include highways 400, 401, 402 and the Queen Elizabeth Way.

It should be no surprise to you that our highways are among the most heavily used for trade and tourism in Canada. In fact, Ontario's highways carry one third of Canada's exports and almost half of all imports.

Any national highway system should include Ontario's major highways and allow them to become eligible for funding. It is obvious that a healthy and efficient provincial highway network is not only critical to Ontario's economy but to all of Canada's.

Mr Hudak was saying Ontario's highways could really use an overhaul. This government is doing something about that. We're fixing frost heaves, sealing cracks and patching holes. You may have seen my colleague the Honourable Al Palladini fixing a highway in your riding. The point is that we're spending our limited resources on preserving, not expanding our investments in roads and bridges.

Ontario pays for all its highway construction and upgrading with virtually no support from the federal government, and that investment goes towards highways that are significant to all of Canada. Let me give you an idea of how much an investment that is.

The member opposite stated that we cut the budget for roads. Here's the reality of the situation. This year we invested some $630 million in our highways alone. That includes an extra $140 million that we pulled together. In all we spent more on highway rehabilitation than any other Ontario government in the last six years, but that's still not enough. We could use the federal support.

Last year the Canadian government collected close to $1 billion to $2 billion in gas and diesel fuel taxes from Ontario, yet it did not invest one cent in our existing highway network. Mr Hudak's resolution is not asking Ottawa to increase taxes; it only asks that Ottawa commit money it already collects from road users. Ontario has the right to expect fair treatment from the federal government. Ontario is the hub of Canada's economy, and Canada simply can't afford to let any part of that national transportation system deteriorate.

I urge the members to support Mr Hudak's resolution. Our highways are the backbone of trade, tourism and safe travel in this province but they are also important to the rest of Canada.

Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): I stand today to support the resolution put forward by the member for Niagara South. Obviously we need to protect and preserve our national highway system.

Many years ago both the provincial governments and the federal government implemented taking taxes from gasoline purchases. These taxes were to be used, obviously, for the maintenance and expansion of our national highways. Instead, this source of revenue has been put back into the general revenue accounts, disbursed nationally and not locally in Ontario. The federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories, should establish some very clear and objective guidelines to the allocation of funding and use revenues from existing fuel taxes to fund the federal portion of the national highway program.

Canada, with its vast network of highways, is a country that needs a safe and seamless road infrastructure, both for the purposes of trade and in particular tourism. Tourism is a vital industry not only in Ontario but in Canada. Transportation in general is the largest single source of tourism expenditure in Canada. It accounts for about 50% of the total tourism expenditures in this country. Transportation is vital to tourism: Transportation is tourism. Leisure travel in Canada accounts for almost 75% of the intercity trips, making tourism the largest user of passenger transportation services. Transportation is vital to the tourism industry, which depends on convenient, affordable and easy access of tourists to destinations. The quality of the transportation infrastructure of a destination is an important determinant of the strength of the tourism industry.

Tourism is an important sector of Canada's economy, not just Ontario's, contributing in 1990 an estimated $26 billion in revenue, $7.4 billion in foreign exchange earnings and directly employing over 600,000 Canadians.

While tourism depends on transportation, transportation is also a major beneficiary of tourism. About 45% of the total revenues generated by Canada's tourism industry is in the transportation sector.

I focus on tourism. For example, this Friday at noon in the communities of Kitchener-Waterloo, in the riding which I represent of Kitchener-Wilmot, is the official opening of the second-largest festival in Canada, Oktoberfest, the true spirit of gemütlichkeit, of friendship, of hospitality. It will be a major destination point for probably, depending on who is counting, up to one million visitors who will descend upon Kitchener-Waterloo and the region of Waterloo to celebrate Oktoberfest, a great Bavarian festival. It opens this Friday. It will continue for 10 days in our community. That's one of the prime examples of tourism. That's one of the vital components towards making the fabric of this great country. I emphasize Oktoberfest primarily because it occurs -- the opening, this Friday, as I've said -- and is a vital link in the tourism industry in my community and in the province of Ontario and in Canada.

We need leadership, not confrontation, as my learned colleague from across the floor has alluded to. We need leadership and cooperation at the federal level to ensure the future of our national highway system. I would encourage all members of the House to endorse this resolution.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Niagara South.

Mr Hudak: Thank you to my fellow members on this side of the floor for giving me a bit more time. I had a few things I wanted to share about my riding that I didn't get a chance to talk about enough and to answer some criticism from the member for Oakwood.

The Acting Speaker: Will you just take your seat for a minute.

Mr Hudak: If the third party wants to go ahead and speak -- I apologize for jumping in -- I'll reserve my time for the end.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Cochrane South.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and thank you to the member across the way.

Generally, I don't have difficulty with the member's resolution. He's asking that the federal government take its responsibility towards the maintenance and construction of our highway infrastructure as a national program. The parliamentary assistant is quite right: The federal government has been quite remiss in its duties when it comes to national transportation over the years. They've pulled out of highway transportation and now with the Chrétien government they're also pulling out of rail transportation, which is another issue altogether.

I agree with the member across the way who says we need to urge the federal government, Mr Chrétien and his government, to come forward and play a vital role in making sure that the highway infrastructure in this province and across this country is to the standard that it needs to be, because we all recognize, as members of this assembly, that highway infrastructure is very important to the economic survival of our economy. On that part, I do agree that the federal government does have to take its role.

The other example is that the federal government has removed itself from the transportation industry -- from rail, which I think is a disaster, especially for the western provinces, with the removal of the Crow rate. There's the whole issue of what they have done in regard to the selling off of our national railway. They have moved themselves out of the airline industry. I think in the long run -- we've had this debate in the House before -- those things cumulatively are not going to bode well for the province of Ontario as the economic engine that drives Canada. With a weaker infrastructure of transportation and telecommunications, I don't see that as being particularly advantageous.

Where I part company with the member, though, is on a designated tax. We've had these kinds of resolutions before in the House, where members have asked to designate a particular tax towards a particular function the provincial government has a responsibility for. Individually, if you look at this resolution as one resolution that stands alone, it makes some sense. You say, "We'll designate some tax dollars from the federal government and we'll designate some tax dollars from the provincial government, from the retail sales tax through to the excise tax, to maintain our highways."

I guess individually it makes some sense, but the problem is that once you enter into this it's a slippery road, because then what you do is send a message out to the public of Ontario that, "If your priority as you see it is important enough for this Legislature to support by a designated tax, you will get dollars to support that particular initiative."

Things such as highways I imagine would get the nod from the public in regard to funding. I imagine many of the services in health care would probably get the nod. But I think there are a lot of other services that government offers, that need to be offered, that may not get the nod, and we would be very caught up in this House in playing politics of taxation as they relate to programs.

On that point, I have a problem. I'm a little torn as to how to vote on this thing because on the one hand I want the federal government to take its responsibility -- I think the member is right, the federal government has to pay its fair share -- when it comes to transportation, but I have a problem when it comes to designating taxes.

The province of Ontario and the federal government of Canada have responsibilities. They should own up to those responsibilities. We have a taxation system that's quite broad in the sense of provincial sales taxes, fuel taxes, provincial income taxes, such that the pool of all of those dollars is to be designated by cabinet to particular issues and particular areas that we need to cover. As a New Democrat, I would much rather see that approach where it's a corporate approach on the part of the government about how it sets its priorities and then how it funds that.

We'll listen to the rest of the wrapup on the part of the member across the way in regard to the final vote, but I just want the member to know -- voting for or against, no matter what -- the federal government needs to take its responsibility.

I do, however, have a bit of a problem with a Conservative member coming before this House and yelling the fair share of the federal government argument. We as a government under Bob Rae made that argument for four to five years. We said the federal government was not taking its responsibility when it came to Ontario. The federal government has abandoned the province of Ontario; I agree with the member. But where I have a bit of a problem, although I do support what he's trying to do here, is that when your party was in opposition you ran against us on that. You were saying all we were doing was whining at the feds, trying to offload our responsibility to the federal government. You asked us to take our responsibility and stop blaming Ottawa. You played that game in opposition, and now that you've come to government you've finally come the way of the New Democrats, which is, "We need to get the federal government to take its responsibility."

The federal government, when it comes to everything from highway transportation to social services to health care, has really let the province of Ontario down. They're playing less and less of a role when it comes to funding. It is putting many of the services in this province at jeopardy. When I see what's happening in Ontario to the health care system, I say yes, the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jim Wilson, and the government of Ontario have a huge responsibility because they make the decisions about where the dollars go. Obviously I think his decisions are having a negative effect on health care, but we can't let the federal government off the hook. They have to take some responsibility. They're the ones who are cutting the funding and they're the ones who are going to block funding, and with the result of that our health care system and our transportation system are really left in a bit of a situation.

In the last bit of time I have to present, though, I want to go over some of the numbers that we spent on transportation, because I've heard the Minister of Transportation on a number of occasions going across the province of Ontario and talking about how much money he's spending on highway transportation capital budgets. He goes to great length to talk about how much money he's spending and how he's doing more than any other government has ever done in highway transportation. In defence of the Honourable Gilles Pouliot, the former Minister of Transportation, you guys had better compare apples to apples and not oranges to apples. The work that Mr Pouliot did as Minister of Transportation was far more than what this government is now doing with capital infrastructure on highways.

What we did was fund highway construction from two different pots. One pot was the capital budget of the Ministry of Transportation, which was around $750 million a year in 1994-95, the last year of our government. But in addition to that, and what the member and the cabinet minister forget to mention, is that there was a Jobs Ontario component to the capital budget, which was about another $700 million. I'm going by memory, but it seems to me that the capital budget of the Ministry of Transportation -- dollars in the construction of new roads, reconstruction of existing roads, resurfacing -- was somewhere in the neighbourhood of about $1.4 billion total in 1994-95, the last year of our government. This year, 1996-97, it's less than it was before. Your estimates show that you actually are going to spend about $1.2 billion overall.

Where is that dollar going? Some of that money is going where it needs to go in regard to the reconstruction of many needed roads, but if we were to go around Ontario this summer and think back to what was being done, most of what we saw was resurfacing; it was black-topping. If I were the Minister of Transportation and I were looking at a way to spend money and to spread it around really thin so that everybody thought something was going on in Ontario, I would spend my money on resurfacing, because you can spend, depending on which kind of highway it is, a little amount of money to do a lot of resurfacing in a whole bunch of places and it looks like there's a lot of activity. Was it needed? Of course, it was needed. I don't suggest for one second that the Minister of Transportation resurfaced parts of highways that didn't need to be done. Quite the opposite: They needed to be done. But it wasn't a question where the government was actually spending money on new road construction to the point that the previous NDP government was doing, and it's not a question of rebuilding roads.


There were a number of projects that were cancelled under the Conservative government. I can think of some of them in northern Ontario. The four-laning between Huntsville and North Bay was something we were going to go forward with and we were going to do it at an accelerated pace. The government has cut that back. I think they're going to be doing about 10 kilometres per year. There are about 100 kilometres to go, so that's a fairly long-term project. It's cut back from where we were going to go. I think that stretch of highway, quite frankly, is significant. It needs to be done. I would have thought with the Premier living in North Bay that that stretch of highway would have got some kind of support on the part of the Premier, to say we need the four-lane Huntsville up to Powassan. Quite frankly, the traffic on that highway is too heavy for a two-lane highway and we need to move to four lanes.

I think of the road in Sultan. Highway 144 over to Sultan needed to be done in order to collect into Chapleau. It was something again that our government was going forward with that was cancelled by the Conservative government.

We all remember last winter the effect of highway conditions as they related to the expenditures of the Ministry of Transportation when it came to winter road maintenance. As I was talking earlier to my friend the member from Renfrew, Mr Conway, I drive a significant amount of time from Timmins to Toronto return. I probably do somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 20 or 25 trips a year by my own vehicle as I come to Queen's Park to represent the people of Cochrane South. I'll tell you, there's no way in heck you're going to get me on that highway again in the middle of winter if you guys are going to do what you did last year.

In trips that I did up to Timmins, I can remember in some circumstances finding as many as 15 cars in the ditch because roads were not properly salted, roads were not properly plowed. Rather than having a road that should be bare at the given point in time, roads a day and two days after a storm or after a snow-up had not been properly cleared and the roads were just treacherous. People were complaining in northern Ontario, and we brought those cases here to Queen's Park on many occasions. North of North Bay, driving on Highway 11, and north of Sudbury, driving on 144, those roads, quite frankly, you were white-knuckle driving.

I own a Ranger pickup truck, and you would think with a pickup you'd be in better shape than most people. You couldn't hold the highway at reduced speeds. If the speed limit was 100 kilometres an hour, you could drive that highway at 70 kilometres an hour and you were lucky if you held on to the highway. Like I say, I don't how many times I travelled that highway where I would count 10 and 15 cars that went into the ditch, not because they were speeding, not because they were not paying attention to their driving situation, but because, quite frankly, the highways were in an atrocious state.

I say to the Minister of Transportation, I will be watching that situation quite closely this winter, as will every other person who lives in northern Ontario, because we in northern Ontario will not stand for one more winter of bad highway maintenance. We need our highways not only for our economy. We need the highways for ourselves, to be able to traverse across northern Ontario for every other reason, from travelling for medical appointments to travel in order to get around to see people and to do business. If we don't have good highways, we can't do much of that.

I don't know how many times, I say again, I saw trucks and cars in the ditch last winter. I talked to people who were in sales who were not able to travel in order to keep appointments for the sale of the goods they were doing because the highways were not properly maintained. So I will be watching out on that.

The other thing is, I just want to point out to the member across the way that he talks about the commitment on the part of the provincial government towards our system of highways. I think if you look at the expenditure estimates, you'll notice that in many cases there's a lot of money that has been cut back on transportation, especially how it affects municipalities. As an example, in 1995-96, the municipal road subsidies were $706 million. What was it this year? It was $119 million. That means all of those roads that municipalities are responsible for maintaining have been cut significantly, and with that cut they are less able to respond to keeping those highways up to the standard they need to.

On top of that, the government is offloading its responsibility for many provincial highways that go through municipalities on to the municipalities. In Timmins, we're being offloaded with a number of highways. Our mayor and council in the city of Timmins, Mr Power and his council, are saying, "You transfer those roads over, you're telling us we're going to get one-time funding, but after a couple of years it's going to be directly out of the assessment base of the people of the city of Timmins."

I would say that's the argument of most mayors and councils out there. You hand those highways over, all it means to say is that it looks awful good on the books of the province of Ontario. Mr Palladini and Mr Wilson -- or I should say Mr Eves and Mr Harris -- can crow about how smart they are and how they've managed to reduce the expenditures of the Ministry of Transportation, but what really they've done is they have quite frankly offloaded their responsibilities from their level of government on to the municipal taxpayers.

What's going to happen? I would imagine after the next municipal election, municipalities across this province are going to get hit with municipal tax increases on the basis of not only this cut that you've done to municipalities but a number of other cuts that you've done. I say that's not the way that we need to work. If you guys are serious about trying to get your house in order, you need to sit down with your municipal partners and figure out how that's going to happen in some kind of equitable way. You can't just offload it to the municipalities, then sit there and crow and say how smart you are that you've managed to balance your books, because you may have cleaned off your books but you've dirtied somebody else's quite significantly.

So I say to the member across the way, the resolution is not a bad one. We're asking the federal government to take its fair share. I applaud you; I think that is right. I only wish that the Conservatives in opposition under Mr Harris would have agreed with us when we were in government and were saying to the Chrétien and Mulroney governments that they weren't paying their fair share, that Harris would have come on side. It took him going into government to come up with this concept. I guess that says something about how long it takes him to figure out what's going on. Better late than never. We support you on that point.

On the question of designating taxes towards a specific function of the provincial government, I think that's a slippery slope, as I said before. You start designating taxes to specific services and I think a whole bunch of services that are crucial out there to many people will not get funding because it will not be politically saleable in some cases in this Legislature. I think women and other people out there would be the ones who would be negatively affected.

I thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to make comment on behalf of my party.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): To be very clear about something as the debate winds down and we go to the vote, the fact is that the backdrop for this debate is a debt of $100 billion for the province of Ontario, debt servicing costs annually in the order of $10 billion. Let's keep that in the background. We have a government that is committed to expenditure controls and a deliberate attempt to get a handle on the affairs of this province.

As it does that, it finds itself still committed to a number of expenditures that it must make, not least of which, as we've heard from the parliamentary assistant, are expenditures in the area of road repairs and maintenance in excess of anything spent by this province in the past six years. So we see good management; we're doing better with less. But at the same time we find ourselves being squeezed increasingly by the robber barons in Ottawa. We find the Liberal Party taking more and more money from us and we find a federal minister standing yesterday in the House crowing about the new balance statements for the federal government without saying on whose back that new balance has been found.

Let me suggest that we find ourselves with a federal government that is taking more and more out of this province, and the $2-billion theft from the taxpayers of Ontario is only a small part of that dollar that's flowing out to Ottawa and no money coming back in for the taxpayers of Ontario. Let me suggest that $2 billion goes out of Ontario and nothing comes back in. No, perhaps I'm a little wrong. I remember that the Honourable Art Eggleton did turn up in Toronto a few days ago and offered a couple of million dollars for the TTC subway. Now, that's not bad out of $2 billion to give back to the people of Ontario. Frankly, I find that an insult.

More than that, we find all kinds of money being taken out of the provincial economy as we find ways to restructure the welfare rolls. The federal government pays 50 cents of every dollar paid and yet we've heard nothing from the finance minister of what has happened to that 50 cents or the millions and millions of dollars the federal government has saved in that area. So we find in that area alone more savings that allow Mr Martin to crow about a new balance statement, but on the backs of the Ontario taxpayers, and frankly that has to stop. The gasoline tax alone: 10 cents of every litre flowing to Ottawa, nothing flowing back into Ontario. That has to stop.

We talked about downloading. My good friend from Cochrane talks about downloading. He knows as well as I know: $3.7 billion cut by the federal government to Ontario in transfer payments. Can we really put up with that?

Mr Colle: Whine, whine, whine.

Mr Shea: My colleague, the apologist for the Liberal government in Ottawa who represents the riding of Oakwood, suggests that we're whining, suggests that's the same kind of a phrase the owner of the poorhouse used to poor Oliver Twist when he said, "Please, sir, may I have more porridge?" The fact is, I think it's a shameful thing that he would even say that in this House.

The Ontario taxpayers have a right to be treated better than they're being treated now, and this motion at least begins to try to address that imbalance.

Mr Hudak: Thanks to my colleague from High Park-Swansea: an excellent endorsement of my resolution. Thanks also to the member for Cochrane South for his constructive comments, and I anticipate that he will be supporting the resolution as well.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure how the transportation critic from Oakwood feels about this issue. From time to time here in the back benches we like to muse about the parties opposite, who's running for the leadership and that sort of thing. Some of us thought the member for Oakwood might possibly run for the leadership. From the transportation critic's point of view, he's a hardworking member with some experience in the Metro area. He's a good-looking guy. He looks good on camera, very pleasant, and some very strong policies on transportation, some very strong transportation policies like the squeegee issue. So you certainly see a lot of leadership in that area.

But we truly see where he stands in the provincial scene with that stalwart defence of the federal government. He doesn't want the federal government to help out in transportation. He doesn't want them to participate. In fact, the federal government was way more receptive to this idea on Monday than the member opposite. It's not part of his strategy. Perhaps the reason he's objecting to this resolution is because maybe he wants to run federally next time. He doesn't want to help out in Ontario, obviously; he wants to help out in Ottawa.

I'm more optimistic than the member opposite. I think the federal government, in the context of the infrastructure program, is very much in tune with this issue. I would anticipate and I look for the support of my members in Niagara, like John Maloney, the hardworking MP for the riding of Erie, who I think shows a bit more sense, a bit more commitment to this issue than the transportation critic opposite. I think in the context of the federal infrastructure program this is the best use of the money. City halls and lawn bowling courts and such are one thing. They maybe create some short-term jobs, they're good for the community culturally, but they don't create long-term jobs.

In terms of putting money into highways for a smoother, seamless transportation system for tourism and trade, that's long-term job creation. That's what this government was elected for, long-term job creation. To ask for just 20% of what the feds currently take out of Ontario motorists' pockets to be put back into the national highway system is not asking for a lot. In fact, from Ontario's point of view, the transportation critic said $1 billion is coming in. He's the transportation critic and I'll take his word that he knows his figures as transportation critic. MTO's budget, as the hardworking PA Jerry Ouellette said, is $2 billion. So we're way past that. I'm just asking for two pennies out of the 10 cents they take out of the fuel tax for long-term job creation in Canada, in Ontario, and most importantly in the Niagara Peninsula.

The hardworking member for Brantford, Mr Ron Johnson, I know is trying to help build the 403 to his city. I'm visiting there tonight. I'm looking forward to it and I know he's going to back me on the bill as well.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Hudak has moved private member's resolution number 26. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

It now being 12 o'clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1204 to 1330.



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I wish to raise a very serious issue of the Parkdale Beach Child Care Centre. The Toronto Board of Education is in the process of replacing or renovating four elementary schools: Island Public School/Island Outdoor Natural Science School, Lord Dufferin Public School, Eglinton Junior Public School, Spectrum Alternative Senior School and the Queen Victoria Public School.

Budgets approved for school renovations do not include financing to replace the space currently being used for the school-based child care centres. The Toronto Board of Education does not have the financial capacity or the authority in policy to fund the child care facilities. If no funds are found, 214 child care spaces may be eliminated in these schools.

In the past, when new replacement schools were constructed to include child care, financing for these child care facilities came from other sources, in almost all cases from the province of Ontario. These child care centres have requested funding from the province. However, the response by the Minister of Community and Social Services is, "My ministry will no longer provide funding for child care centres in new schools."

Two days ago I attended a briefing session at Queen Victoria Junior Public School and I saw how the Parkdale Beach Child Care Centre cares for the children. With a school enrolment currently at 850, we expect that these children will have a future.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): The city of London and the community around it have been concerned for a number of years about PCBs in our community. Today I have both good news and bad news for this Legislature in terms of the cleanup of those PCBs. The good news is that London Hydro has just about cleaned up all the PCBs they were responsible for, and that was about two thirds of the PCBs that were being stored within the confines of London and city. It's extremely important for us to understand that this involved a $5-million commitment, and the last contracts in that $5-million allocation have now been awarded and we can expect that the process with London Hydro will be completed. But our city still has one third of the PCBs that were stored in our confines there.

I call today upon this Legislature, particularly upon the Minister of Environment to use his influence and to use the facilities that the province has, to encourage the governments at all three levels to push for the elimination of PCBs that are stored within London. We still have health concerns around the numbers that are still there, and it needs the political will of the provincial government as well as the municipal and federal levels to accomplish a cleanup.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I rise today to congratulate the boards of directors of two hospitals in Chatham, the Public General and St Joseph's, for following up on a recent decision to form the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. The two boards have now unanimously agreed to pursue the preferred option recommended by their consultant to close one facility and merge all services at one location. As with most communities, the people of Chatham are struggling to maintain two facilities, each operating at a fraction of its bed capacity.

This decision will see the historical integrity of the two 100-year-old institutions maintained while hospital-based health care moves forward with an affordable, efficient model. The process will take three years to complete and the estimated savings are 11 million taxpayer dollars per year.

It should be noted that the Kent County Medical Society is in strong support of the plan to consolidate hospital-based services.

The board members of the hospitals have recognized the need for change and have made a very difficult decision.

I invite all my colleagues to please join me in congratulating the people of Chatham and Kent county for their wisdom and foresight.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): All of us in Thunder Bay are still reeling from the decision handed down by the Health Services Restructuring Commission last week. Many of us believe that what the commission and the Minister of Health have ordered us to accept is, and will be, woefully inadequate in the years to come.

On top of the decision to cut our beds in half and to close three of our hospitals, another shocking decision was made by the minister, rather quietly, may I say, which dramatically affects the capital funding area.

On June 27, the very day the commission brought down its initial report in Thunder Bay, the minister decided to slash the provincial contribution for capital funding from two thirds to 50%. What that means in Thunder Bay terms is that not only is the minister imposing a decision on us that may not nearly meet our health care needs in Thunder Bay and that doesn't respond to the clear wishes of our community, but now we're expected to find $45 million of our own money to implement this order, with no regard for whether or not we can, as a community, raise those funds.

We now learn that the minister and the cabinet are talking about how to deal with the funding issues. Well, they certainly should. When you remove a net amount of $31 million annually from a community for its health care and then you tell the community that they must also raise $45 million to build what may be inadequate facilities, you are no longer operating in a just or democratic fashion.

The Minister of Health must change his decision on capital funding, not just to its previous level, but a level that would allow us to ensure that whatever funds we can raise on our own will guarantee us the health care services we need and are entitled to.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm delighted today to pay tribute to two young women who are active at St Alban's Boys' and Girls' Club in my riding who are among the recipients this year of the scholarships established through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ontario.

The first recipient is Paulina Arruda, who has volunteered at St Alban's for five years in programs like summer camp, children's services, administration, and recently she obtained a part-time receptionist position. Paulina has applied to a three-year business administration co-op program at Humber College where she hopes to become an administrative assistant.

As part of her other involvement with the club, she serves as a liaison person to the Christie-Ossington community centre as well as being the editor and graphic designer of St Alban's quarterly newspaper.

She has demonstrated tremendous organizational abilities by organizing a picnic for 700 and a Spook-tacular Halloween event that boasted 200 children.

The second recipient is Rosaria Zompanti, who is continuing in accounting at Brock University. As part of her involvement with St Alban's club she has volunteered extensively for five years. She's been the president of the Keystone Club, a youth representative on the board of directors and a supervisor of the games room. Presently, at the Niagara Club she spends Monday evenings helping out with the bingo for the Niagara Keystone Club while attending university full-time.

Academically, Rosaria has taken part in the volunteer tax clinic, which helped other students file their taxes free of charge. She was also a Brock business ambassador to local high schools.

To them, my congratulations as well.


Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): I would like to inform all members of the House and the people of Ontario that starting this Friday, tomorrow, at noonhour is the official keg tapping at the beautiful downtown city of Kitchener city hall and it will conclude the following Saturday. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the annual Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest celebration.

Every year, over a million visitors converge on Kitchener-Waterloo to enjoy the sights and sounds of the world's second-largest Bavarian festival. Oktoberfest has been a tradition in the K-W area for over 28 years and contributes millions of dollars to the local economy and to the various charities.

I encourage everyone to experience this traditional festival in Kitchener-Waterloo. "Das Oktoberfest ist wunderbar," as we say in Kitchener-Waterloo; "Gemütlichkeit," which is "hospitality."



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I want to bring to the attention of the Minister of Health an issue with regard to hospital CEOs, mergers and payouts in the region of Hamilton-Wentworth. As a result of the merger between Chedoke-McMaster and Hamilton Civic, there's been a $1.3-million severance package given to two CEOs over the last couple of months.

The Hamilton Civic Hospitals had the courtesy to do it openly and to publicly reveal the information. The Chedoke-McMaster board chose not to. As a result, a severance package of almost $1 million to a CEO had to be leaked and given out in bits and pieces.

Minister, at a time of fiscal restraint, at a time of cutbacks, at a time of hospital closures, a $1-million severance package is obscene. It is gross. It is disgraceful behaviour by a responsible board.

The time has come for you to act. This is going to continue to happen across Ontario. I am asking the minister today to amend the Public Disclosures Act to ensure that any severance package in excess of $100,000 is publicly revealed when it is given. Secondly, I am asking the minister to ensure that there is a cap placed on severance packages, that they cannot equal more than one year's salary of the CEO.

If we're willing to put a cap on doctors' salaries, if we're willing to cap service across Ontario, Minister, you must be willing to cap these outrageous settlements that are happening across Ontario. I ask the minister to act now because this is critical not only for Hamilton but for the province. If you fail to do that, I will bring in a private member's bill to hopefully bring that along.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to address my remarks to all those who might be watching today who care at all about the environment, child care, seniors, health care, housing, education or jobs.

I particularly want to address those who are non-union workers. I want to draw their attention to the strike that's taking place right now with tens of thousands of workers between the Canadian Auto Workers and General Motors, and also Steelworkers who are on strike with S.A. Armstrong, as examples of the kinds of people who are out on the forefront of taking this government on. The labour movement is far from perfect and they never pretend to be, but in terms of fighting for things that matter in this province and putting it on the line and being out there for things like the environment and housing and children and women's rights, the labour movement is lock-step in partnership with everybody who cares about those issues.

It's now time for the other partners out there to recognize that these strikes need to be supported. If this government, in partnership and in cahoots with General Motors -- because you're all buddies coming from the same direction -- can take on the CAW and take on the Steelworkers, what chance have you got out there on your own? Be very, very clear. If we don't hang together, surely this government will hang us all separately.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I was astonished, as the member for Ottawa Centre can appreciate, by his attempt to demonstrate some political acumen here yesterday with the help of a 17-year-old student from my riding. The member waved around a video produced by the student from Carleton Place High School depicting the alleged disrepair of that building.

I spoke to the director of education in Lanark county and I gathered two things about what the member did. One, the member for Ottawa Centre has less than a passing acquaintance with the facts of my riding. That video was filmed before the roof was installed. Second, he is more interested in scoring political points by using students from another riding than he is concerned about improving education.

This tactic is unbecoming of colleagues of this House. The member, some school principals and some students are buying into a fearmongering campaign by the teachers' union, which will use anyone or any means to defend the status quo. The status quo will not work. As stated by the minister, we will lift the freeze on capital projects in a way that makes the best possible use of taxpayers' dollars.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House I have today laid upon the table a special report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.



Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): I'm pleased to inform members of the Legislature that earlier today, in a speech to the Ottawa Construction Association, my colleague the Minister of Labour, the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer, announced that an agreement in principle was reached last night with the government of Quebec on construction mobility between our two provinces.

This government believes that open borders, free trade and the unimpeded flow of labour, goods and services are vital to the economic growth of this province and the rest of Canada. Ontario's goal throughout these long and difficult negotiations has been to achieve a more level playing field for Ontario contractors and workers, meaning faster, easier and equal access to construction work in Quebec. We have been committed to doing this by removing the major obstacles to access as identified by those in the construction industry. I am pleased to say that we have achieved our objective.

Under the agreement Quebec will permanently exempt qualified Ontario contractors from Quebec exams and provide them with building contractors' licences within 24 hours of application so they may bid immediately on Quebec projects; eliminate the need for Ontario workers to obtain duplicate certification in Quebec; grant face-value recognition of Ontario's certificates of qualification and apprentice ID cards; and give broader recognition to workers with certificates of apprenticeship and provisional certificates. The Quebec government has agreed to put the necessary legislation in place this fall and is firmly committed to full implementation of the agreement by the end of the year.

I'd like to acknowledge the leadership of Premier Harris in pressing this issue with the government of Quebec during his meeting with Premier Bouchard this past May. We are grateful for the cooperation of Premier Bouchard and the Quebec Minister of Labour, M. Rioux, in working with us to resolve these issues. The support and active involvement of the MPPs from eastern Ontario has been invaluable in setting the ground work for the agreement and I thank them for their efforts. I congratulate Minister Witmer on her achievement this past week and I am sure all members of the Legislature will join me in this acknowledgement.

We have all shared the frustrations and concerns of the construction workers and contractors of Ontario, who will now have greatly improved access to work in Quebec. True labour mobility between Ontario and Quebec will lead to a healthier construction industry and a stronger economy on both sides of the border.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): On behalf of my colleagues, I want to respond to Ms Cunningham's statement on behalf of the government with respect to interprovincial labour mobility between Ontario and Quebec. We have, apparently, an agreement in principle. Obviously my colleagues and I will look very carefully at what this agreement in principle produces on the ground, because I must say we have been here before. We have had agreements in principle before. My friend the former minister, the member for Beaches-Woodbine, might want to comment about that.

We have an agreement in principle that is apparently going to ameliorate some of the extraordinary irritants that exist in my part of eastern Ontario and elsewhere across the Ontario-Quebec frontier. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate not just the minister and her colleagues in council, but particularly my colleague Jean-Marc Lalonde, the member for Prescott and Russell, for his leadership in this assembly over the last few months in bringing the concerns to the government and to the assembly at large. Mr Lalonde is today in his home county. I have spoken to him and he tells me that this agreement in principle still leaves a lot of unresolved business. His first reflection suggests that, for example, this agreement in principle is still going to mean that Ontario workers, in doing business in Quebec, are apparently going to have to belong to a Quebec trade union or worker association. That apparently is not going to be a reciprocal condition on Quebec workers in Ontario.


I want to say that the proof of this agreement will be in the eating of the pudding. We will all applaud progress. It is a scandal for our Canadian federation that we've got these kinds of interprovincial barriers to trade and the mobility of our labour force. As a Canadian living in Ontario, I want to believe that to the greatest extent possible there is going to be the free movement of capital and labour across all aspects of the Dominion. We have not had that in our part of eastern Ontario and northeastern Ontario. The situation, notwithstanding the good work and the good intentions of the Rae-Lankin agreement of two years ago, did not improve. My colleagues from the east and from elsewhere in the region, and that includes northeastern Ontario, are hopeful that this recalcitrance from our friends in Quebec is going to change, not just in word but in agreement in principle, because it didn't change the last time.

I repeat that my colleague Mr Lalonde is not able to be here today, because like the Minister of Labour he too is in the national capital region. His initial response is that this is not as much progress as the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs would have us believe. Any progress, and I want to be fair, is going to be appreciated, but in the current environment we have been told, and it has been told to me by several people, that Quebec contractors are manipulating the Ontario retail sales to their particular advantage on Ontario government contracts in communities like Hawkesbury and Ottawa and Gloucester and Mattawa and Tri-town. I'm fully expecting that this is going to change.

We will see what we shall see. I applaud particularly my colleague Mr Lalonde for the excellent work he has done and continues to do, and his vigilance will continue with this agreement in principle.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I say on behalf of our party that we're pleased when progress is made on this issue. We're pleased to see the issue becoming more clearly defined and steps being taken to build on the agreement that was in place. But I found it passing strange -- well, perhaps that's not true; I found it quite typical of this government -- to hear a good-news announcement in which they congratulated their minister, their Premier and their eastern Ontario members and made no reference to the fact that the first ground-breaking agreement that started this process, on which they are building, was conducted by the previous government. From my own point of view, I felt a little disappointed personally because I played a fairly meaningful role in making progress on this issue, with the help of the current Minister of Environment and Energy. I think we worked very effectively on behalf of the residents of eastern Ontario.

The agreement that was arrived at by the previous government had three or four areas, which you see listed here, in which ongoing work was to begin. What I think is a shame is that we're a year and a half into the mandate of this new government and it is only now -- and I'll give credit to the Minister of Labour since she's taken a hold of this file -- that we've seen progress and seen new agreements being arrived at. Unfortunately, the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism has dropped the ball completely with respect to the issue of internal trade and interprovincial trade. It is a shame because there are issues beyond Quebec and Ontario that need to be dealt with in this Dominion, issues that relate to the free movement of goods and labour and service, and there is progress yet to be made there.

It's been very clear from the editorials and from the comments of writers like Shawn McCarthy in the Toronto Star that the federal government places the blame for the lack of progress in interprovincial trade agreements squarely on the shoulders of the current Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism and his lack of interest in that particular part of his portfolio.

May I say, with respect to this particular agreement, there are questions I have outstanding and that I think that the people of eastern Ontario should have with respect to what we're actually hearing here today. The question of membership in trade unions, membership in Ontario versus membership in Quebec, is still a very big unresolved issue. I don't see it answered here. It was one of the remaining issues to be negotiated, and it appears that progress hasn't been made on that.

With respect to health and safety certification, we see trade certification and we see apprenticeship mentioned in these achievements, but what about the health and safety certification requirements that Quebec has and was insisting on placing on Ontario workers coming across the border? It's not referred to here. If that's still in place, that's a barrier, and a barrier which will prevent Ontario workers from crossing the border.

One of the things that gives me the most cause for concern is the last bullet point, which says the agreement gives "broader recognition to workers with certificates of apprenticeship and provisional certificates." In fact, we were far down the road in having equivalency recognized for trades and trade certificates; the large area of disagreement was with respect to what Quebec refers to in the Ontario workforce as the unskilled worker, the unskilled labourer, which is by far the vast majority of the Ontario workers on construction sites by Quebec standards. If that issue hasn't been dealt with, again Ontario contractors and Ontario workers will not be able to meet the requirements of Quebec and will not be able to bid on those jobs. That's a very important issue, and it is not addressed here.

We see nothing in terms of progress on the issue of Quebec regions and access to what regions. I think we made significant progress on that. Perhaps this government has in fact accepted the work that the previous government had done and feels there is no need to improve upon that. It would have been nice to have that reflected in the minister's statement. It would be nice to know what their opinion is on that, the issue of Quebec regions and what regions Ontario contractors and workers have access to, because you know there are no regions in Ontario. We have a free open market in which Quebec is able to bid on jobs. I'd like an answer to that as well.

In closing, let me just say that the outstanding issues with respect to Quebec-Ontario remain very important. We need clarity on them. I congratulate the government if progress has indeed been made. If there are outstanding issues, I'd like a report of that so we can monitor the effect of this for the construction industry, those contractors and workers in Quebec.

May I say to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, get on with it with respect to the interprovincial trade negotiations. It is crucial to this country's economy. It is crucial to fair play for Ontario employers and Ontario workers and Ontario contractors that they have access to those other markets as they have access to Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'll stand before the House to comment on the question put by the member for Dovercourt yesterday. I spent some time reviewing the previous decisions and the standing orders of the Legislature. The matter was dealt with at committee yesterday, or the day before, now. The matter that was raised by the member for Dovercourt is one which falls within the authority of the government agencies committee. The Speaker does not intervene in a matter that is before a duly constituted standing or select committee unless that matter is appealed to the Speaker by a majority of members of the committee. It's very straightforward and very simple. Further to that, the position of the Chair of all standing committees duly constituted would be untenable if members could come to this House and appeal decisions made by the Chair.

As I said yesterday, I listened carefully, I reviewed the situation, and to the member for Dovercourt and the House, there is clear delineation in the standing orders that the Chair's decisions stand unless a majority of members wish to have it appealed to the Legislature. I don't see that majority; therefore, I cannot hear it.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise to correct the record of my comments as they appear in Hansard on October 8 on page 4407. It's with respect to a question placed to the Minister of Community and Social Services on child care centres. The statement refers to $40 million in capital budgets in the Ministry of Community and Social Services, $10.5 million in the Ministry of Education and Training, both of which have been cut. I said, "That was a $50-million budget line between the two ministries that's been cut to $83,000." It appears in Hansard as "$15 million." I'd like to correct that to $50 million. It appears at two different places within the question.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. It's noted and will stand corrected.




Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): My question is for the Solicitor General. For the past three days we have heard the Premier, the Solicitor General and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations deny any knowledge of the secret report on organized crime and gambling. The Solicitor General refused to release the report, claiming that he knew nothing about it and hadn't even read it. Today we learn in an article by Richard Brennan in the Windsor Star that the Premier's office was given a briefing on the secret report. Will you admit that your government was briefed on this report in the spring of this year? Will you admit that the Premier knew about this report and that you knew about this report?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The answer is clearly no, the Premier was not given a briefing. There was an article, I gather, in the Windsor Star. A one-page issue note outlining the general concerns of policing was provided to the Premier's office. But I have not seen the report. It would be inappropriate for me or any member of government to see the report. As I indicated earlier, this is an internal policing document, an intelligence report which was circulated within the policing community.

Mr Cordiano: It seems to me that the minister and the Premier have stretched this orchestrated charade of plausible denial beyond any sense of credibility. We're calling on the Solicitor General to come clean.

I have in my possession a copy of the briefing note that was prepared by the police officer -- here it is -- and the ministry and given to the Premier's office. I want to note the date of this briefing note, March 18, 1996. The briefing note says very clearly, "The analysis shows that illegal gambling flourishes in Ontario and there is potential for abuse in the legal gaming sector." Will the Solicitor General tell this House when he received a copy of this report? When did he receive a copy of the briefing note on this report?

Hon Mr Runciman: This is bordering on the ridiculous with respect to the opposition's position on this. Chief Fantino, who's the chair of the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, said last night: "The report was never intended for political or public consumption. It is an operational report." This is Chief Fantino of the city of London police service: "It is an operational report" -- think about that word "operational" -- "not a political report." Also, my ministry, at my request, provided a legal opinion and indicated that if the Solicitor General was to read a CISO intelligence report, that could raise a perception of and concern about the Solicitor General's interference in policing matters.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Nonsense.

Hon Mr Runciman: Do you want to listen to this? "We are not aware of any Solicitor General ever requesting or reviewing such an intelligence report."

Mr Cordiano: What nonsense, total and utter nonsense. Let's call this what this is: This is nothing but a coverup. It's a concealment of fact. You attempt to deny that there was ever a report, you attempt to deny that you ever got a briefing note and you do not want to share this with the rest of us. You expect this House to believe that neither you nor the Premier nor anyone in his office ever knew of the contents of this report. I cannot believe that the minister would stand up here today and hope that we would understand that he didn't have the contents of this report. How could he stand up today? How could he think that we're going to believe him today?

Hon Mr Runciman: I can say that, apparently unlike the Liberals of the past, this government believes in playing by the rules, and the rules are that we do not interfere in the operational matters of police. We do not stick our nose into private intelligence reports that are supposed to remain within the policing community. We don't want to know who the police are targeting. We don't want to know those kinds of things because they are not within the purview of the political arm. There's that separation between policing and the government, as I've indicated in this House on a number of occasions when they accuse us, they accuse me, they accuse the government of interfering in operational matters. We hear this on a regular basis. Now they're saying, "Interfere." They should get their house in order. We're playing by the rules.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question, the member for Lawrence.

Mr Cordiano: This is incredible. The Premier, the minister and their government have had --

The Speaker: Who is your question to?

Mr Cordiano: It's to the same minister. They've had in their possession since the spring a police report linking organized crime to legalized gambling. Are you so desperate to fund your tax cut that you would ignore the police report and cover up the fact that you've even seen it? How could you possibly do this to the people of this province?

Hon Mr Runciman: As I understand it from the press reports, this study was commissioned when the former government, the NDP government, was moving towards a casino in Windsor. The concerns were related to the infiltration of organized crime into casino gambling. I think that was primarily the focus. I'm basing this on press reports. We know that despite a report commissioned by the now leader of the NDP which in effect substantiated those concerns or agreed with those kinds of concerns, the NDP went ahead. They indicated to us at the time that they were taking the appropriate steps to ensure that organized crime would not be allowed to infiltrate casino gambling in this province.

We've indicated quite clearly, when the policing community has expressed concerns related to VLTs or whatever other operation with respect to organized gambling, that we would put in the necessary resources. The Treasurer is quoted as saying -- this is from an Ottawa Citizen story of May 9 -- "As soon as government-approved machines are in place at racetracks and charity casinos, police will be given more resources to hunt for illegal machines." Our position is quite clear.

Mr Cordiano: Total nonsense. The report -- and I want to quote from it again -- clearly indicates, "Legalized gambling has never replaced illegal gambling, which has increased with interest shown in bookies and wagering on sporting events, video gambling machines and gaming houses." That is what your report says. That's what's in the briefing note. How can you possibly move forward with the introduction of 20,000 slot machines? How can you ignore the reports that are warning you of the infiltration of organized crime into the province? You're the top cop of this province. Is it your belief that as long as the government gets its take from gambling you will be prepared to look the other way on organized crime? That's what you're doing.

Hon Mr Runciman: That's really not worthy of a response. Essentially, the policing community has indicated to us, as it indicated to the previous government, that going into this area would perhaps, based on some other jurisdictions, open opportunities for organized crime. The previous government indicated that it was undertaking initiatives to ensure that didn't occur. We have indicated to the policing community as well that we are going to devote the necessary resources to ensure that this doesn't happen. Plus, unlike the previous government, we are also going to devote the resources to go after all of the illegal machines in this province, estimated to be about 25,000 illegal machines operating in the province under the two previous governments, and we are going to take action against them.

Mr Cordiano: One questions the competence of this minister after an answer like that. The report, which I have right in front of me, clearly indicates there is a danger of organized crime infiltrating legalized gambling.

The Windsor Star reports that you ordered the OPP commissioner "to carry out an investigation to get to the bottom of the breach of confidentiality." You're more interested in damage control than in fighting organized crime. That's what you've said today. Will the minister now come clean and admit that you made a mistake in deceiving this House, admit that the report you've had since the spring --

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): That's unparliamentary.

Mr Cordiano: That's what the minister has done.

The Speaker: Accusing the --

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): But he did. That's exactly what --

The Speaker: Please, the member for Oriole. You cannot accuse a minister of deceiving the House. I ask the member to withdraw.


Mr Cordiano: I withdraw, Mr Speaker, and I will say that the minister has contradicted himself, at the very least. Admit that you had the report this spring --

The Speaker: Come up with a question, please.

Mr Cordiano: -- and that you made a mistake in keeping it from this House. Minister, will you come to your senses and withdraw your video slot machine bill?

Hon Mr Runciman: I've indicated that I did not have the report. This is an internal policing document. I don't know how many times I have to say that.

With respect to the other allegation the member made, that I ordered some police investigation, that's a complete fabrication, a complete, utter fabrication. I did in no way order a police investigation. As I understand it, Chief Fantino, and I believe quite rightfully, has indicated his concerns about an internal operational intelligence document within the policing community being leaked to the media, and he has asked the OPP to investigate how that occurred. That's quite justifiable. But to suggest that I have somehow interfered is a complete and utter fabrication.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is also for the Solicitor General and minister of corrections and, surprise, surprise, Speaker, I too have a briefing note. It seems that the opposition is now able to get their hands on briefing notes but the minister denies that they either exist or that they're important.

I want to ask the minister this. This briefing note was prepared on March 15. It was obviously prepared in response to an article that appeared in the London Free Press the day before. The March 14, 1996, London Free Press quoted from the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario document stating, and this is what the report states: "Until the government provides meaningful enforcement, legal gaming will continue under a façade of honesty and integrity. There seems to be an acceptance that gambling is not a problem."

The Speaker: The question, please.

Mr Hampton: You said you didn't read this report, despite the fact that this briefing note was in your hands. So when these issues are raised even in the briefing note --

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Hampton: -- did you not read the report? Did you not ask for the report because you didn't think it's important, because you don't think this issue matters? Why didn't you ask for the report?

The Speaker: The question's been asked.

Hon Mr Runciman: No. The opposition can't have it both ways. I've said this on a number of occasions. They want to criticize me, they want to criticize the government, if there's any perception of interference in operational matters. I've just been accused here today of directing the OPP to conduct an investigation, which is a complete falsehood. Now they're saying, "Why don't you get your fingers into the pie?"

The Speaker: Order. I ask the Solicitor General to withdraw that, accusing them of falsehoods. That again is out of order.

Hon Mr Runciman: I withdraw, Mr Speaker. The point I'm trying to make is that this is clearly an operational matter and I am not and no Solicitor General in the past, I've been advised, has ever requested or gained access to these confidential intelligence reports provided through the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario. These are not government reports. There was a news report. We asked for a summary of the concerns. They were provided to the government and provided to the Premier's office. That is the end of it.

Mr Hampton: This is incredible. The briefing note raises a number of issues. The briefing note itself says, "The purpose of the report is to identify the areas within the gaming industry that are susceptible to abuse by organized crime." Then it lists some of them, and it lists video gambling machines, something the government of the day is considering. This minister, the Solicitor General, says, "Well, I'm not going to look at it." He says it would be improper.

Duncan Brown, the executive director of the Gaming Control Commission, took it upon himself to request a copy of the report and was in fact allowed to read it. And get this. This is Duncan Brown. This person is acting responsibly. He says he needed to know the contents of the report in order to respond to questions and concerns. He was going to be responsible.

Minister, how do you explain this? The report is available to the executive director of the gaming commission. He cares about this issue. He cares about the infiltration of organized crime into video lottery terminals. He read the report, he had access to it, and you want to say, "Oh, I can't read this report." How do you explain that?

Hon Mr Runciman: It's always dangerous to make assumptions, but I would assume that the director of the gaming commission would have law officer, peace officer status so that it is appropriate, I would think, given the mandate of the gaming commission, to have access to this kind of document. It would seem to me that that would be most appropriate. It is totally inappropriate --


The Speaker: Order. Solicitor General.

Hon Mr Runciman: I think it's quite appropriate that that individual would have access to that kind of information, but totally inappropriate for a politician and member of government.

I'll once again say it. Chief Julian Fantino, who's the head of Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, says this was an internal document, a confidential document, never intended to be released to the government.

Mrs Caplan: You're the minister. You're responsible.

The Speaker: Order. The member for Oriole, come to order.

Hon Mr Runciman: That's the head of the Criminal Intelligence Service saying it was a document never intended to be released to government.

Mr Hampton: The Solicitor General wants to confuse the public and hopes that by doing that, he can slide by.

What was under consideration by the government was a policy decision, a policy decision whether or not to proceed with video slot machines, not a decision about whether to prosecute, not a decision about whether or not to investigate an individual. It would have been perfectly acceptable for this minister to ask for names and dates to be excluded from the report, to receive that report for the purposes of the policy consideration, to then take that and provide advice to his other cabinet colleagues. This minister has been derelict in his duties. That is the long and the short of it.

But let me ask the final question. Solicitor General, since the briefing note itself raises serious issues, did you notify your cabinet colleagues of the affiliation of organized crime and gambling in Ontario and did you caution them on the introduction of video slot machines to Ontario? Did you do that?

Hon Mr Runciman: I suppose I could ask the member when he commissioned a report if he put it into his --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): No, we rejected VLTs.

Hon Mr Runciman: No, that was talking about casino gambling, if memory --

The Speaker: The member for Algoma, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: I have the opportunity to meet with Chief Fantino on a fairly regular basis to talk about policing concerns across the province and certainly the chief has indicated to me on a number of occasions that his concern primarily is that we devote adequate resources to deal with this, not only the challenges with respect to legalization of VLTs but that we can focus as well on all of the illegal machines that have been operating in this province for some time, which that government refused to take action against, did not do anything about. We are going to do something about it.

The Treasurer has indicated that once we move on the VLT question and the legislation is passed, we are going to devote additional resources to this area so that we can deal with it in a meaningful way.

The Speaker: New question, third party.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Well, Speaker --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Your question is to?

Mr Hampton: Actually my question is to the Minister of Health. We'll see if we can get some answers from him.

Minister, today, October 10, the Ontario Medical Association has released a press notice whose headline is, "Government Underfunding Threatens to Further Reduce Access to Quality Medical Care for Patients." In this release they say, "Ontario's 10,000 general practitioners and family doctors say they are being compelled to further adjust their practices in response to continued government underfunding of medical services. The doctors say they may be forced to stop accepting new, non-emergency patients on November 1, 1996." The doctors are very specific. They say that your underfunding of health care is stopping them from accepting new non-emergency patients.


Minister, what do you have to say in response to all those family physicians out there who are providing health care to Ontario citizens?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member is well aware that the Ontario Medical Association and the Ministry of Health are having negotiations at this time, with an eye to resolving some of the frustrations that doctors have in this province. Those frustrations go back 10 to 15 years and I would remind the honourable member that this government is not cutting health care; Ottawa is cutting health care by $2.1 billion over the next two years.

Mr Hampton: This is the Minister of Health for Ontario, and it's always been the case in Ontario that the Minister of Health took responsibility for the health care system. I didn't know suddenly that that had now passed to Ottawa. I don't think the doctors accept that, so let me try again. The doctors are saying, "While doctors are seeing a big increase in the number of patients, many of whom are older and require extra care, the government has frozen its funding for patient care at a level that's less than was spent four years ago." To me, that sounds like a cut.

I want to ask the minister again, what is your response to those 10,000 family physicians who provide important health care to the citizens of Ontario?

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member is terribly misinformed. The $3.8-billion cap on the fee-for-service component, we spend more than that on doctors in this province, and physician services; that's just the fee-for-service doctors in the province. That cap was put in place by law up till March 31 this year by the previous government, as a holdover from the social contract. Since that time, this government has acknowledged that yes, the population is getting older and it's growing, and we're negotiating with the doctors' association right now to address all of the issues, including the $3.8-billion issue, which is a figure that was imposed on the doctors by the previous government.

Mr Hampton: The social contract containment expired on March 31. We too have met with the OMA and the OMA is very clear that this minister has created the crisis; they're very clear that this minister has pressed down the cap more than ever before; they're very clear that this minister, through his irrational measures and unrealistic measures in Bill 26 in terms of funding medical services, in terms of refusing to recognize growing populations, in terms of his refusal to recognize an aging population, is the source of the problem.

Minister, this is what the doctors say, what the OMA says. They say, "We recommend that as of November 1, 1996, Ontario's family doctors stop seeing new non-emergency patients as a further adjustment to the government's underfunding of health care."

The Speaker: Question.

Mr Hampton: They're very clear. So I want to ask you again, what is your answer to those family physicians, who provide health care for the citizens of Ontario? What are you going to do to address their concerns about a growing population and about a population that is growing older and therefore uses more health care services? What is your response?

Hon Mr Wilson: This government has invested significantly in doctors' services since coming to office. We brought in the $70-an-hour on-call emergency fee which is keeping 70 emergency rooms open, and that's direct dollars to doctors to allow them to work in emergency during the low-volume times of the day and night. We've introduced direct contracts for 21 communities, with significant salaries and benefits. We've converted a number of doctors in the province from fee for service to an APP, an alternative payment plan. We've invested in cardiac services and dialysis, reducing waiting lists. Doctors say, "I don't benefit directly from those investments." They do, because it reduces utilization. People aren't using hospital beds unnecessarily when they can get into dialysis right away, when they can have their heart surgeries as quickly as possible. That cuts down utilization, that helps doctors and that helps with pressures on the $3.8 billion fee-for-service pool.

This government's record is better than any government's in the last 10 years. We're paying the doctors' malpractice insurance, and we've had Justice Dubin, along with the federal government and the malpractice insurance association, doing an investigation on that. So we've made significant headway on doctors' issues and we intend to make more headway through the negotiating process.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I would like to return to the Solicitor General. What we know today is that in March of this year you were informed through this briefing note of this criminal intelligence report. That should have alerted you, by reading this, that there is grave danger in this province with the proliferation of gambling activities. This was occurring at the same time a bill was being developed by your government that was introduced in June of this year -- so simultaneously this was being developed; you knew about that -- that would start to expand VLTs right across this province in uncontrolled environments.

Minister, why would you not, upon reading this, have had alarm bells go off in your mind and said: "Hey, we might have a problem here. I'd like to see this report and just see how bad a problem it is and what I maybe need to do about it if we're going to do this VLT thing." Why weren't you on the job and doing your job and asking for this report so that you could bring proper law enforcement to gambling in this province?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I indicated earlier in response to a question of the same nature that it would have been an unprecedented request by a Solicitor General to request a personal review of an intelligence report developed for the policing community, unprecedented and perceived as interference in operational policing matters. I indicated --


Hon Mr Runciman: They simply do not want to hear this answer, Mr Speaker. But I do meet with Chief Fantino and we speak on the phone on a number of occasions. If he felt that I did not have adequate information or that the government did not have adequate information with respect to this, he would have advised me. His indication has been all along --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Answer, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: -- urging the government to ensure that adequate resources go into policing this and dealing with illegal gambling in a more effective manner than has been the case in the past. We have given him those assurances; I have, as has the Treasurer.

Mr Ramsay: Minister, you're about the only person in this province who doesn't care to read this report. We're all very concerned about this. I always thought that when you are in government and you're there to design public policy, you want to gather all the pertinent information to make sure that it's good public policy, that it's beneficial to the people of the province.

You knew there were some concerns about this and you decided to ignore it, just like you ignored the alleged beatings of young offenders. Every time there's been a problem in your ministry, it's either you didn't care to know, you didn't want to know, you just didn't know. You're not doing your job. It's not interfering to design good public policy, to take all the very best information you have so that when you bring forward public policy, it's for the benefit of everybody here.

Minister, you just don't get it. Introducing VLTs into restaurants and bars is the first time we've had a major proliferation of gambling machines outside a controlled environment.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Ramsay: They're controlled in the casinos, they're controlled in racetracks -- it's coming in -- but they're not going to be controlled any longer. Why don't you put the police resources in place to do a proper job, to make sure that gambling doesn't get into the wrong hands of people here in Ontario?

Hon Mr Runciman: We intend to do that and we've made those commitments. I can recite chapter and verse --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Runciman: -- whether it deals with young offenders, whether it deals with ordering the OPP to conduct investigations, whether we're accused of ordering the OPP into all sorts of things, political interference, which they raise on a very regular basis, making those kinds of accusations, that this minister and this government are directing police services across this province, which is totally false and I've indicated that on numerous occasions. Now, again, they're encouraging me, they're encouraging this government to get involved in operational matters, confidential reports within the policing community, and saying: "You should be getting into this. You should be interfering in operational matters of policing." Well, folks, you're not going to have it both ways. I am not going to get involved in operational matters of policing. This Solicitor General will not do it. I'm telling you that and that's the way it's going to stand.


The Speaker: New question, leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is again for the Solicitor General. I want to quote from the briefing note which was prepared March 15, 1996, because it actually provides a summary of the Criminal Intelligence Service report. This is what the summary says. It says, "Analysis shows that illegal gambling flourishes in Ontario," and it also says, "Legalized gambling has never replaced illegal gambling, which has increased with interest shown in video gambling machines and gaming houses."

Solicitor General, when you saw that, didn't it jump out at you that your government strategy about bringing in VLTs might not work, that in fact legal gambling might not do anything to replace illegal gambling with VLTs? Did that not rise to your mind when you saw that in this briefing note?

Hon Mr Runciman: I've talked to police officers across the province with respect to VLTs, and they do have concerns. They are related to ensuring that adequate resources go into dealing with it.

With respect to the suggestion the leader of the third party is making that this will encourage a further proliferation of illegal gambling, there is a difference of opinion within the policing community on that issue as well. I indicated yesterday that a former deputy commissioner of the OPP has quite the opposite view with respect to this matter and indicates that this will in fact allow the government to have a real impact on removing illegal machines from the province of Ontario.

Mr Hampton: Once again the Solicitor General is trying to confuse the issue. The Solicitor General is a member of cabinet. He is supposed to take part in cabinet policy discussions about whether video slot machines would be good for Ontario or bad for Ontario. He has a report in front of him that says legalizing video slot machines will not work.

Further, he has a report, and this is what the briefing note says: "The two major gambling activities of sport bookmaking and video gambling machines annually earn an estimated $1 billion and $500 million respectively for the criminal elements."

When you saw those two things, Minister, the one point that video slot machines earn organized crime $500 million a year --

The Speaker: Put your question, please.

Mr Hampton: -- and the other part of the briefing note saying if you introduce legal slot machines, the problem is simply going to multiply, did the thought cross your head to maybe talk to the Premier or to maybe talk to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations --

The Speaker: Put the question, please.

Mr Hampton: -- and say to them, "Hey, we've got a problem here"? The thought occurred to the executive director of the gaming commission. He took it seriously. Did you?

Hon Mr Runciman: I indeed take the question of illegal gambling in this province very seriously. If we're losing in the neighbourhood of $1 billion to $1.5 billion to organized crime and to illegal activities, certainly we want to cope with that in an effective way. To suggest that legalizing VLTs is not going to help us in that sense --

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): That's what it says in your own briefing notes.

Hon Mr Runciman: No, they don't say that. They do not say that in the sense that if we can devote additional resources, we're going to be able to do that. You get differing opinions as you talk to law enforcement officers in this area, but the one thing they do agree on is that we can focus additional resources so we can deal in a very effective way with illegal gambling operations in this province. That's what we intend to do. To put on blinkers, as has been in the case in the past -- they're trying to suggest that all of a sudden this is something new.


The Speaker: Order. Answer the question.

Hon Mr Runciman: Illegal gambling revenues have been out there and we are going to come to grips with that. We are going to deal with it in an effective way.

The Speaker: New question, the member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My question is for the Solicitor General. You had a report come to your government, a report that was out there from a very reputable and knowledgeable organization, the experts in the field, in other words, which expressed the greatest of concerns about gambling in the province of Ontario and the criminal element that would be permeating that gambling activity.

When your government was deciding whether or not to go into the dark, murky waters of video lottery terminals in every bar and every restaurant in Ontario, did you not believe that you had an obligation to inform your colleagues in the cabinet of these genuine and great concerns by this organization, by this police report, before you made a decision to embark upon placing video lottery terminals in bars and in restaurants in every neighbourhood in Ontario?

Hon Mr Runciman: I think these concerns were raised related to the introduction of casino gambling in the province of Ontario and initiatives were undertaken by the previous government to ensure that they were dealt with appropriately.


The Speaker: Order. The member for Oriole, come to order.

Hon Mr Runciman: That's this government's intention with respect to the introduction of VLTs across this province. It's not being done in isolation. We are going to ensure that adequate resources are put in place so that this whole area is policed in a much more effective way and that we're going to deal with illegal gambling in a much more effective way than has been the case in the past. We recognize the concerns and we are addressing them.

Mr Bradley: There isn't anybody in this province who's going to believe that the Solicitor General would not have the responsibility to inform his cabinet colleagues before embarking upon a major policy change, something that was totally contradictory to what the Treasurer of this province and the Premier of this province let people in this Ontario of ours know would be their stand on a major issue -- that is, putting electronic slot machines in bars and restaurants.

Do you not believe that you had a responsibility to share that information, to apprise yourself of the report? Not necessarily direct them to do anything; to apprise yourself of the problem and inform your colleagues. If you didn't, wouldn't you believe that people in this province could conclude that the only reason you're embarking upon 20,000 video lottery terminals, electronic slot machines, is to make up for the tax cut loss? In other words, you're so greedy for this money, so desperate for this money, that you're ignoring criminal activity in this field.

Hon Mr Runciman: I've indicated on a number of occasions now that we have responded to the concerns of the policing community with respect to organized crime and legalized gambling, whether it's through casinos or through the introduction of VLTs in this province. We've indicated very clearly to the policing community as well that we are going to devote the required resources to deal with this in a most effective way. So I think we are addressing those concerns in a most responsible manner.

Mr Hampton: Another question for the Solicitor General and just a point that the Solicitor General wants to avoid. The fact is that other governments in this province have been faced with the issue of video slot machines, and other governments in this province -- and I was a member of one -- sat down and looked at the information and said, no, video slot machines are something we should not proceed with. We should not proceed with them for social reasons and we should not proceed with them because there is the issue of organized crime and the involvement of organized crime in slot machines.

So I want to ask you, because you seem to want to avoid this issue -- this isn't a policing issue; this is an issue that you are a member of cabinet. You should be bringing to cabinet relevant information on the issue of video slot machines. You had information in your possession which showed that there was substantial organized crime involvement with video slot machines and information which indicated that the problem would not go away, the problem would get worse if the government brought in more video slot machines.

Did you pass that information on to your cabinet colleagues for discussion? Did you put it to your cabinet colleagues so they could have an informed discussion about this issue? Yes or no.

Hon Mr Runciman: I find it interesting that the member opposite went through this himself with respect to his time in government. He commissioned a report as a backbencher, if I recall, dealing with casino gambling, and it expressed concerns about organized crime infiltration into casino gambling. What happened? Obviously he was convinced within his cabinet circle and within his own government that if we devote adequate and appropriate policing resources, casino gambling will not be a problem; we can control the situation and ensure that organized crime does not infiltrate. What did he do? He supported casino gambling coming into this province.

Now he's saying we can't do the same thing. We take a close look at VLTs, we recognize the policing concerns and we are addressing them in a responsible and appropriate way.

Mr Hampton: I asked the minister a simple question. He was alerted to the information in this briefing note. I asked him if he passed on this information to his cabinet colleagues, like the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, like the Premier, like the Deputy Premier, so they could make an informed decision. I ask him that question again: Did you take this information on the involvement of organized crime in video slot machines and pass it on to your cabinet colleagues so that your government could have an informed discussion about the introduction of more video slot machines into Ontario? Did you do that?

Hon Mr Runciman: I think my colleagues in government are very much apprised of concerns with respect to VLTs. We are addressing those, we're going through this process with respect to the legislation in the House through committee public hearings, and I've certainly conveyed the concerns of the policing community to the Treasurer and other colleagues with respect to ensuring that we have adequate resources into policing to ensure that we can appropriately deal with those concerns. I can say no more. I believe we are dealing with this in an effective and very responsible way.



Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. In a news release yesterday the member for Hamilton East accused you of violating the program guidelines for Ontario Works. He claims that the first seven Ontario Works participants in Algoma are displacing municipal workers. I'd like you to respond to that allegation, please.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd like to thank my colleague from Hamilton Mountain for giving me the opportunity to correct the public record, which was so unfortunately clouded earlier this week by the member for Hamilton East. I expect we can expect more of the same, as our critics opposite continue to demonstrate their opposition to workfare in Ontario.

We have confirmed with the Algoma social services board, and they have indicated to us that these individuals are not replacing paid workers in their community. Secondly, I think it's important to note that this community went out of their way to consult with local union officials in the area to make sure there was agreement with and support for the opportunities they are giving welfare recipients to get back on their feet and back into the workforce.

Mr Pettit: Could you please give the Legislature and the people of Ontario an update as to what progress is being made with the Ontario Works program?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I would certainly like to. Thank you very much. We have recently signed business plans with seven more communities in Peel, Algoma, Kent, Muskoka, Nipissing, North Bay and Brockville, so we are moving ahead with workfare. I had the privilege of speaking to representatives from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario the other day. Many more communities were prepared and asking to be included in the second phase. I look forward to working with them. We're proceeding slowly and surely on workfare. If mistakes are made we'll remedy them, if there are problems which develop we're going to fix them as we slowly and surely move ahead with workfare in Ontario, a program that my honourable colleague from Hamilton East campaigned on and supported during the election.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): To the Solicitor General: From the very first day at the committee on administration of justice when I asked that the committee request a report entitled Gambling in Ontario: Current Enforcement Concerns, 1995, at that time, when it wasn't available, and since then, it would seem you have almost thwarted an attempt to get a full picture of what might happen if video lottery slot machines are introduced to the province of Ontario.

I simply need an answer on behalf of the people of the province of Ontario. There is a briefing note based on that report that went to your ministry. "Minister Tsubouchi and I," previously Minister Sterling, "are trying to do what's best when it comes to Bill 75."

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question, please.

Mr Crozier: Have you shared this briefing note with any other minister?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I believe the appropriate ministers were aware at the time with respect to the press report. Beyond that, I don't believe any minister that I'm aware of would request access to this report. It's not a government report, as I indicated. It's a confidential intelligence document within the policing community and it would have been totally inappropriate for any member or minister of the crown to request it.

Mr Crozier: I'm talking about at least the briefing note. Let's forget the report itself, although I think that you, as the top police officer in this province, should at least have read the report.

Will you at least at this point -- and third reading on Bill 75 has now been delayed a week -- delay the debate on Bill 75, with the cooperation of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, until the committee on administration of justice has been briefed by a police officer or someone from the OPP or the gambling division on the concerns they have with video slot machine introduction across this province?

Hon Mr Runciman: I don't have carriage of the legislation. I hope the minister was listening. I'll refer this.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): What I will say is that clearly we recognize there is a problem with respect to the roving casinos, which were introduced, quite frankly, under the Peterson government.

Mr Crozier: These are VLTs. Get it straight.

The Speaker: The member for Essex South.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The charities have told us that there is a problem with the regulation of these initiatives. That's why we are moving towards permanent charity gaming halls. Under Bill 75, we will be bringing in better regulatory features, better ways to control, better ways to monitor and to make sure the charities do benefit out of these initiatives.

The Speaker: New question, the leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Minister, this issue has been around now since March of this year and it has certainly been in the news for the last couple of days, so let me ask you, have you had an occasion to read this briefing note on illegal gambling? Either in your former capacity as a minister of the crown or now in your present capacity as a minister of the crown, have you had an opportunity to read this briefing note dealing with illegal gambling and its infiltration of video lottery machines?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: What I can understand from what the leader of the third party is saying, certainly I've heard from them, both from them and also from members of the opposition, of what he is speaking.

I will refer once again to the Globe and Mail article that really initiated this. What this says is, "Most of these problems could be dealt with if the provincial government would devote resources to supervision," and that's exactly what the government is intending to do.

With respect to the actual report, certainly that has been answered adequately by the Solicitor General many times.


Mr Hampton: Neither the Solicitor General nor the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has adequately answered; that's the whole problem here. You keep flashing around the article from the Globe and Mail as if to say, "Well, that's where I get my information." Here's what is interesting: Duncan Brown, who works for you, works at the Gaming Control Commission. The Gaming Control Commission is on page 192 in the government phone book. It's under the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. So Duncan Brown essentially reports to you. Duncan Brown, when he saw this information, called up the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario and asked to see the report. They gave him a copy of the report to read. Have you called up and asked to read the report, since somebody who works for you and is responsible to you has had access to the report? Have you done your job and talked to Duncan Brown?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I have to really frame it in the same manner as the Solicitor General: This report is not something which is supposed to be accessible to the political arm of this government. It was a police report. It would be very inappropriate for me to actually have that report.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. Southern Ontario has the worst smog problem in Canada. Reports have suggested that many Ontario communities suffer from poor air quality and some indicate that up to 1,800 deaths per year occur because of this health hazard. Could you please tell this House what initiatives you will be taking to ensure that my constituents and all the citizens of Ontario breathe cleaner air?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I'm proud to say that our government is taking some very important steps with regard to smog and air quality in this province. Last January we established what we call a smog team to put together a plan of action. In June we put forward that plan of action and called it Toward a Smog Plan for Ontario.

Now we are considering the implementation --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Would the member from Ottawa come to order.


The Speaker: I say to the members of the third party that you're running your time off the clock.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Thank you.

The Speaker: I say to the member for Beaches-Woodbine, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Sterling: Perhaps I should start over again. We're very proud of what we're doing with regard to air quality in the province of Ontario. As I mentioned previously, we put together a team early in this year and then brought forward a plan in June to deal with the smog situation we have in the province of Ontario.

We are considering at this time the implementation of mandatory vehicle emission testing. I have also put forward a plan to meet with many of my counterparts in the bordering states in the United States to deal with the huge number of air emissions which come from that particular jurisdiction. I'm looking forward as well to bringing forward other measures to deal with air pollutants in our province.

Mr Carroll: I realize your business plan prioritizes the setting and enforcing of tough environmental standards. Are there any other specific measures you are currently considering to ensure that strong standards are being set to address the very serious issue of air quality?

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Give me a break. Look at this report today. What are you talking about? Why don't you tell the truth for once?

The Speaker: Order. The member for Riverdale, I would ask that you withdraw that, please. I would ask that you withdraw, "Why don't you tell the truth for once?"

Ms Churley: Thank you for pointing that out. I didn't realize that I had put it in those terms and I withdraw those comments.

Hon Mr Sterling: I'm committed towards ensuring that we have updated standards with regard to air quality. Today, we will be putting forward the most aggressive plan to deal with updating standards in this province, which haven't been dealt with for a period of 20 years. We're behind 20 years in setting updated standards with regard to air pollutants.

Our plan will put forward what we will be doing over the next three years. We will be dealing with all of the important chemicals which are airborne and we will be looking at the standards which we have at the present time and updating them, and hopefully of course reducing the amount of emissions in the province of Ontario.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Solicitor General. I want to this afternoon ask the Solicitor General to help me understand his position and the position of the Harris cabinet with respect to police concerns articulated well before the Harris government embarked upon a very substantial expansion into the world and the business of electronic slot machines.

Minister, is it your argument and are you asking this Parliament to believe that weeks after your department prepared, in March 1996, a briefing note that makes plain that police officials in Ontario are concerned about the level of mob involvement in electronic slot machines, then illegal but that are about to be made legal, that you never took those concerns to this cabinet governing the province before the decision was announced in the spring budget that Ontario was going to move headlong into the world of electronic slot machines, often described as the crack cocaine of the gambling world?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I've indicated that my cabinet colleagues and members of the government are well aware that there are and have been some concerns with respect to legal gambling being instituted in the province of Ontario. They certainly go back to the NDP government's decision to bring casino gambling into Ontario. The question always surrounding this was that we ensure that adequate police resources be devoted to ensure that organized crime not be allowed to gain a foothold in the legal side of gambling operations in this province. Also, of course, they've expressed concern about the enormous growth of illegal gambling in Ontario --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Answer, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: -- primarily through the infiltration of VLTs from another province, which shall remain nameless, but also gambling in betting and gaming houses. So we're also committed to going after those areas of illegal operations in this province as well.

I think if you just look at what the Liberal government --

The Speaker: The question's been answered. Supplementary.

Mr Conway: Your own departmental briefing note, prepared presumably for you in March 1996, makes plain that one of the fundamental rationales which your government was to advance a few weeks later for legalizing electronic slot machines, namely, that it would eliminate the illegal world, your own briefing note of March 18, 1996, makes plain is not going to happen.

Now, Minister, you stand here and ask us to believe that you didn't, the Premier didn't, the Treasurer didn't, the justice minister, nobody saw the police report to which this departmental briefing note of March 18, 1996, makes reference. Nobody saw it and few, if anybody, heard about it and its recommendations that are central to the policy of legalizing this crack cocaine business of electronic slot machines.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Conway: For this honourable House to accept that from a responsible minister of the crown --

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Conway: -- is for us to believe that you are either a dupe or a dope, or some peculiar combination of both, who failed --

The Speaker: Order. Member for Renfrew North, I don't find that parliamentary, decorous or in order. I ask --

Mr Conway: I'll withdraw it if you believe it to be unparliamentary, but let me rephrase the final observation. How is any self-respecting Parliament supposed to accept from a responsible minister that something that is so important as the contents of this ministerial briefing note to a policy that you're about to announce, about mob influence in both illegal and about-to-be-legalized electronic slot machines, was never brought by the responsible minister to the cabinet table? How is that not a gross dereliction of your public duty?

Hon Mr Runciman: I think I've responded adequately up to this point.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With regard to standing order 34(a), yesterday I was not satisfied with the answer of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Since that time, we have spoken. We now, I think, if he will concur, agree there was a bit of a misunderstanding as to where my position stood, and I'm willing to withdraw my request for a late show.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I get the sense you'll probably get concurrence. Withdrawn.


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I have the weekly business statement.

Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of October 14, 1996.

On Monday, October 14, the House will not sit due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

On Tuesday, October 15, we will resume second reading of Bill 81, the Fewer Politicians Act.

Wednesday, October 16, will be an opposition day standing in the name of the leader of the official opposition.

Orders of the day for Thursday, October 17, are to be determined.



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep getting petitions against the jail in our community in the west end of Toronto.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Then I suggest you read it.

Mr Ruprecht: This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"Whereas the PC government has opened a 20-bed forensic facility for the criminally insane at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre; and

"Whereas the nearby community is already home to the highest number of ex-psychiatric patients and social service organizations and hundreds of licensed and unlicensed rooming-houses, group homes and crisis care facilities in all of Canada; and

"Whereas there are existing facilities that could be expanded to assess and treat the criminally insane; and

"Whereas no one was consulted, not the local residents, not the business community, not the leaders of community organizations, not education and child care providers and not even the local member of provincial Parliament;

"Therefore we, the undersigned residents and business owners of our community, urge the PC government of Ontario and the Minister of Health to immediately stop all plans to accommodate the criminally insane in an expanded Queen Street Mental Health Centre for these purposes until a public consultation process is completed."

I've attached my signature to this document.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have thousands of petitions signed by workers at the General Motors Oshawa car assembly plant sent to me by their health and safety representative, Paul Goggan. The petition reads as follows:

"To ensure enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act at the General Motors Oshawa car assembly plant, to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned CAW Local 222 members working in the General Motors Oshawa car assembly plant, are opposed to the lack of enforcement by the Ministry of Labour against General Motors, who is prohibited by law from taking reprisals, disciplining, threatening, intimidating or penalizing against any worker who has acted in compliance with or has sought enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or regulations;

"We, the undersigned, therefore demand enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and direct involvement of Labour Minister Elizabeth Witmer to ensure enforcement of health and safety legislation for the protection of the workers in the General Motors Oshawa car assembly plant."

I sign my name with theirs in support.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I present a petition signed by people concerned about ammunition regulations.

"Whereas the NDP government under former Premier Bob Rae passed legislation, Bill 181, the Ammunition Regulation Act, placing restrictions on the sale of ammunition in Ontario; and

"Whereas the provisions contained in Bill 181 are time-consuming, onerous and create unnecessary red tape; and

"Whereas the records for which these provisions have been produced do not track criminals; and

"Whereas Bill 181 was passed, without any discussion with law-abiding gun owners such as farmers, collectors, hunters and recreational shooters, who understand and have a deep respect for the power of firearms and ammunition and the need to maintain and use their equipment in the safest of conditions; and

"Whereas Bill 181 will do nothing to combat the use of illegal ammunition;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to repeal Bill 181, protect the rights of responsible firearms owners and work for tougher penalties against weapons offences."

In support of this petition I affix my signature upon it.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have yet another petition from residents in my area in which they are continuing to show concern with respect to the possibility of eliminating rent controls. I'll read it to the House.

"Whereas the government of Ontario has announced its intentions to remove rent control from apartments that become vacant so that landlords can charge whatever rent they want; and

"Whereas the government's proposal will eliminate rent control on new buildings, and allow landlords to pass on repair bills and other costs to tenants; and

"Whereas the government's proposal will make it easier for landlords to demolish buildings and easier to convert apartments to condominiums; and

"Whereas due to the zero vacancy rate in Metro Toronto the removal of rent control will cause extreme hardship for seniors and tenants on fixed incomes and others who cannot afford homes;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to keep the existing rent control system."

I agree with the contents of the petition and I affix my signature to it.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition signed by 30 residents of the riding of Sudbury East, which reads as follows:

"Whereas Mike Harris's Conservative government of Ontario is planning to destroy the present system of rent control; and

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative Party made no mention of scrapping rent control during the election campaign of 1995 nor in the Common Sense Revolution document; and

"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with high tenant populations campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform of protecting the current rent control system; and

"Whereas the government has consulted with special interest groups representing landlords and developers while cutting funding to organizations representing the 3.5 million tenants of Ontario; and

"Whereas although all renters will suffer, seniors and others on fixed income will suffer particular hardship if rent controls are abolished; and

"Whereas eliminating rent control will result in skyrocketing rents in Ontario;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the attack on the 3.5 million tenants of this province."

I've affixed my signature to it and I agree with the petitioners.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Mississauga South.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): This is the first opportunity I've had to congratulate you formally on the record on your successful election as Speaker a week ago today. I wish you health and success in your new vocation.

I am presenting a petition on behalf of my constituents to end the spring bear hunt.

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas bears are hunted in the spring after they have come out of hibernation; and

"Whereas about 30% of the bears killed in the spring are female, some with cubs; and

"Whereas over 70% of the orphaned cubs do not survive the first year; and

"Whereas 95.3% of bears killed by non-resident hunters and 54% killed by resident hunters are killed over bait; and

"Whereas Ontario still allows the limited use of dogs in bear hunting; and

"Whereas bears are the only large mammals hunted in the spring; and

"Whereas bears are the only mammals that are hunted over bait; and

"Whereas there are only six states in the United States which still allow a spring hunt;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to amend the Game and Fish Act to prohibit the hunting of bears in the spring and to prohibit the use of baiting and dogs in all bear-hunting activities."

I am happy to lend support and sign this petition.



Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended that North York Branson Hospital merge with York-Finch Hospital; and

"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who, in numerous cases, require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;

"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendation contained within the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."

I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): The petitions in opposition to this government's attack on occupational health and safety and WCB continue to roll in. Today I have petitions from the Can Workers Local 354 in Dundas, International Union of Operating Engineers in Toronto, workers at Air Transat, and the glaziers' Local 1819 here in Toronto.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas it is vital that occupational health and safety services provided to workers be conducted by organizations in which workers have faith; and

"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers have provided such services on behalf of workers for many years; and

"Whereas the centre and clinics have made a significant contribution to improvements in workplace health and safety and the reduction of injuries, illnesses and death caused by work;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to oppose any attempt to erode the structure, services or funding of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers.

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that education and training of Ontario workers continue in its present form through the Workers' Health and Safety Centre, and that professional and technical expertise and advice continue to be provided through the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers."

I and my caucus colleagues continue to support these petitions.


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I have a petition to end the spring bear hunt.

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas bears are hunted in the spring after they have come out of hibernation; and

"Whereas about 30% of the bears killed in the spring are female, some with cubs; and

"Whereas over 70% of the orphan cubs do not survive the first year; and

"Whereas 95.3% of the bears killed by non-resident hunters and 54% killed by resident hunters are killed over bait; and

"Whereas Ontario still allows the limited use of dogs in bear hunting; and

"Whereas bears are the only large mammals hunted in the spring; and

"Whereas bears are the only mammals that are hunted over bait; and

"Whereas there are only six states in the United States which still allow a spring hunt;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to amend the Game and Fish Act to prohibit the hunting of bears in the spring and to prohibit the use of baiting and dogs in all bear-hunting activities."


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): A petition to the government of Ontario:

"Since video lottery terminals will contribute to gambling addiction in Ontario and the resulting breakup of families, spousal and child abuse and crime such as embezzlement and robbery; and

"Since the introduction of video lottery terminals across Ontario will provide those addicted to gambling with widespread temptation and will attract young people to a vice which will adversely affect their lives for many years to come; and

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across our province is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable, the desperate, in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest incomes; and

"Since the placement of video lottery terminals in bars in Ontario and permanent casinos in various locations across the province represents an escalation of gambling opportunities; and

"Since Premier Harris and Finance Minister Eves were so critical of the provincial government becoming involved in further gambling ventures and making the government more dependent on gambling revenues to maintain government operations;

"We, the undersigned, call upon Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to reconsider its announced decision to introduce the most insidious form of gambling, video lottery terminals, to restaurants and bars in the province."


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have the following petition to the Ontario Legislature:

"Whereas Mike Harris's Conservative government of Ontario is planning to destroy the present system of rent control; and

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative Party made no mention of scrapping rent control during the election campaign of 1995 or in the Common Sense Revolution document; and

"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with high tenant populations campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform of protecting the current rent control system; and

"Whereas the government has consulted with special interest groups representing landlords and developers while cutting funding to organizations representing the 3.5 million tenants of Ontario; and

"Whereas although all renters will suffer, seniors and others on fixed incomes will suffer particular hardship if rent controls are abolished; and

"Whereas eliminating rent control will result in skyrocketing rents in Ontario;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the attack on the 3.5 million tenants of this province."

I add my signature in support.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's my privilege to present a petition to the House today.

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, illness or injury;

"Whereas abortion is not therapeutic;

"Whereas abortion is never medically necessary;

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require elective procedures to be funded;

"Whereas there is no right to publicly funded abortion;

"Whereas it is the responsibility and authority of the provinces exclusively to determine what services will be insured;

"Whereas there's mounting evidence that abortion is hazardous to women's health;

"Whereas the availability of abortion at public expense leads to the use of abortion as a means of birth control;

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded 45,000 abortions in 1993, at an estimated cost of $25 million;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"That the Ontario provincial government remove abortion as a service or procedure covered under the provincial health insurance plan."

I'm pleased to affix my name to this petition.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 81, An Act to reduce the number of members of the Legislative Assembly by making the number and boundaries of provincial electoral districts identical to those of their federal counterparts and to make consequential amendments to statutes concerning electoral representation / Projet de loi 81, Loi visant à réduire le nombre des députés à l'Assemblée législative en rendant identiques le nombre et les limites des circonscriptions électorales provinciales et fédérales et à apporter des modifications corrélatives à des lois concernant la représentation électorale.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity to continue from where I left off yesterday and to say to the House and to those who are listening that if they really want an excellent exposé of why the way this government is approaching this particular piece of legislation or the way it is moving on changing the nature and the makeup of this place is wrong, all they have to do is pick up a copy of yesterday's Hansard and read the speech from the member for Renfrew North.

It was just an excellent presentation, very clear and concise, with all kinds of historical research, of supportive documentation to say to this government that there are other ways of restructuring this place to find cost savings, if that's what they're about, and still maintain the effectiveness, still be true to the traditions of this province and the way we've actually, as a country, tried to be fair in the methods we put in place to make sure that everybody is represented at these very important houses of government, the legislatures, provincially and federally. So I would suggest to anybody who is at all concerned or interested or thoughtful about this particular issue that they make an effort. They might even want to call the office of their member and ask for a copy of yesterday's Hansard and take a look at the speech from the member for Renfrew North.


In my opening yesterday, I suggested that this legislation was in many ways an attack on democracy, an attack on the fundamentals of democracy, an attack also on politicians. Today I'm going to expand a little on that: just what it is that we accept and understand, and what those of us who participate in it know, as democracy today. At the end, I'm going to speak about how this very quick, unilateral, unconsultative approach to changing dramatically and drastically the makeup of this place, the number of people who sit and make decisions on behalf of everybody in the province, is not the right way to go.

I don't think anybody in this House would argue with the fact that from time to time as population changes, goes up or down or shifts with the economy, change needs to be made; that we need to be thoughtful and intelligent about that and need to be looking at new approaches to ensure that people's voices are heard; that we honour the fundamental principles of the democratic process we've inherited. We have the responsibility of making sure that stays intact and from time to time we need to make those changes. But the way this government is going about this, as with everything else it has done in the year and some few months it's been in charge at Queen's Park, is just not consistent with the way we've done it in the past.

It is, in very significant and interesting ways, a diminishing of democracy in the very way it is being implemented. I hear from my House leader that this government is so anxious to get this legislation in, this legislation that has such wide and far-ranging ramifications for every citizen of the province, that they want to do it in a matter of less than a month and a half, before the House rises in this fall session, before Christmas of this year. This government wants this bill, as we've seen with so many other bills they've brought in in the past year or so, just whipped through this House with minimal consultation from the members who have been elected -- never mind the public out there, who have come to expect and appreciate participation in fuller, wider and broader public consultation on these important issues.

This government, in its attempt to stifle, limit and diminish democracy in Ontario, is once again doing that. We're expected to pass this bill before the end of this session. They're giving us two or three days to debate it in the House. But every member of our caucus has a tremendous interest in participating in this discussion and wanting to be part of it, so we'll be pushing as hard as we can to make sure that everybody has a chance, the Liberal members, the New Democrat members and hopefully the members across the way. I know from speaking to many of them and sitting on committee with many of them that they have a concern and an interest in making sure that the views of their constituents, through them, are heard in this place and that they get a chance to air their views, to stand up and tell their story and make their case, as is their right, as is their due, because they are duly elected to this place and should expect and demand to be heard on these issues. I'm sure there are many of them over there who really feel strongly about this.

To be limited and shut out because we're in a big hurry with this is, in my mind, a real slap in the face of the democratic process. Why the hurry? Democracy, the way we do government in this province, has been evolving for more than 100 years now, and we have time, all kinds of time, to make sure that what we do is consistent with the traditions of this place and with the way we've always done things, to make sure that what we do is very careful and thoughtful and intelligent in the end.

I said yesterday that I found it passing strange that we New Democrats are the ones in this instance standing up and defending the integrity of this place, standing up and defending the traditions of this place.

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): One minute we're too fast, the next we're not doing enough.

Mr Martin: You folks across the way -- Mr Preston is now engaged in this -- as Conservatives are thought to be the defenders of stability and tradition and all that kind of thing. Why in this instance are you willing to throw all that out the window because you want to impose upon this province your agenda -- which you have some right to do because you were duly elected -- in such a big hurry? Why are you so willing to turn your back on the traditional way that we normally do things around here in this instance, which is going to have such a far-reaching and fundamental effect on the way people are represented, on their opportunity to have their voice heard and to participate in the politics of the province?

Mr Preston: What's the question? It won't happen for another four years.

Mr Martin: I don't know; I would hope that you would stand up in this debate, talk to your House leader and ask him to make sure that we all have the necessary time to put our thoughts on the record. I would hope that you would go to your House leader and talk to him and say to him: "Listen, I've got some thoughts on this. I feel strongly about this. I have some interest in it. I genuinely and sincerely wanted to be an effective member of this place when I was elected. I wanted to represent my constituents, and in so doing I feel I have a right to participate."

You're not going to have the opportunity to speak at length on this if we follow the time lines that have been shared with our House leader re this piece of legislation. Even more troubling is the fact that they're not willing to go out for public consultation with it. What are you afraid of?

Mr Preston: We did it during the election. Read the book.

Mr Martin: No, you didn't go out on this at all. An election is a different process altogether from public consultation, from a standing committee of this House, with members of all parties participating, going around the province and hearing from people. It's a completely different process, and your lack of respect for it should cause people some concern and should cause them to sit up and say, if nothing else, "What is it they're trying to impose upon us that is so difficult and so troubling to them that they won't go out and listen to what people have to say about it?" The leader of our House tells us there may just be a willingness of this government to spend a day or two in Toronto -- negotiations are going on about that -- to hear from some people, but definitely not to go out to northern Ontario and not to go out to rural and urban Ontario and hear what --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): You didn't win any seats in the north.

Mr Martin: But that's consistent as well. In fact, built into the redistribution that we're debating here and the new configuration of ridings is a diminishing again of the ability of the voice of northern and southeastern and rural Ontario to be heard in this place. The fact that you're not willing to go out and hear from people shouldn't surprise us, actually, because it's consistent with your track record to date and with the way you're trying to ram this piece of legislation through the House.

Just think of Bill 26. Do you remember Bill 26? I'm sure many of you do because you got a lot of flak over it. As a matter of fact, when you moved so aggressively with that bully bill and we in this chamber had to participate in some level of civil disobedience, the people of this province rose up and were very angry. The polls that came out shortly after that particular piece of action showed that there was some disapproval of the way that you as a government were behaving yourselves in this place and of your lack of respect for the rights of the members of this House to participate fully in debates around issues you bring forward and the legislation you ultimately pass.

I suggest to you that in this instance the fact that you're not willing to take the necessary time to be thoughtful about this, to listen to the members in the House fully and to give them the time they need to put on the record their thoughts and the thoughts of their constituents, and then not to be willing to go out to northern Ontario and not to be willing to go to southeastern Ontario and to places like London and Windsor, where you might get another voice, another opinion on this particular issue, is alarming. It's alarming and it's disturbing.


Any thinking person, any thoughtful person, any person out there who has a concern for democracy and the way we do democracy and the way this province is going to unfold and the decisions that are made here in this place that affect the lives of every constituent out there should see this as a red flag.

I know from having played a lot of high school sports that one of the principles we always ran by was that where you felt resistance, normally there was something happening, that where you felt a push of some sort coming at you, normally you knew there was action there, and so you focused on that. I would suggest to the people of Ontario, there is a big push here. There's a big push to get a piece of legislation through this House in a big hurry without consultation. You should be, if for no other reason, alarmed by that fact in itself and be writing in, be calling your members, be writing letters to the editor, be talking to each other, be willing to participate in petition campaigns that will probably develop out there and assist us here in this House to make sure this government respects the traditions of this place that have been put in place here over a number of years by people like ourselves, respected in their communities, who worked hard in their communities and at the end of the day got themselves elected by due process.

Today I want to elaborate a little further on some of what I laid out yesterday. This is a diminishing of democracy; this is a break with tradition. I suggested yesterday and will suggest again today that it's part of a bigger agenda to destroy representative democracy in this province. All you have to do is look around at the things that are being said and the proposals that are being made and the discussions that are being had around, for example, wiping out school boards.

We all may have some difficulty from time to time with the way the school boards operate or decisions they make or a million questions about whether they truly represent their constituents and all of that, but that's natural in a democracy where freedom is something that we cherish and the right to voice your opinion is something that we hold very near and dear. But to just walk in and under the guise of cost cutting and streamlining, without any thoughtful consultation and discussion, without any impact studies, without any plan to show us how this is going to work out and what you're going to replace it with, to just unilaterally wipe out school boards, which is what people out there are fearing -- I've had discussions with the school trustees of my particular jurisdiction and I've read letters to the editor from trustees who are rightfully very concerned because they're not having any say. They, like us, are feeling quite under attack. They serve often at great sacrifice to themselves and their families.

Any of us who work in a place like Queen's Park or operate as trustees know that what you get by way of remuneration, even though acceptable and nobody's complaining about it, doesn't always cover the hours that you put in doing research, going to meetings, and the times that you do those meetings at night, on weekends, when it's convenient for other people, and sometimes the lack of thanks you get for that. In this way, by this government, to be slapped with the back of the hand and told, "We no longer appreciate your services any more and in fact we are so concerned about other things that we're just going to dismiss you," that's part of what's going on here.

This piece of legislation is part of a larger agenda in this province to take away some of the rights that all of us who live in Ontario have come to expect by way of our citizenship will be there for us to participate democratically in the running of our schools, in the running of other government institutions and in the running of this place, and that's what's happening.

The amalgamation of municipalities: Again, in some instances that may make sense. But do it in consultation with them. Do it considering what they have to say, what we have to say, what others have to say about whether putting together one community with another does, at the end of the day, make sense.

I remember living in northern Ontario and talking with my colleague from Algoma, Bud Wildman, about the fact that so often a place like Wawa that is so intimately connected with Sault Ste Marie, does trade with Sault Ste Marie -- as a matter of fact, when I was a teenager and had access to the family car, from time to time we'd jump into it on a Friday night and go to the Sault for coffee.

Mr Wildman: Did your father know that?

Mr Martin: Sometimes he did and sometimes he didn't. It depended on whether I had enough money to fill the gas tank up after, when I left it back. But we were --

Mr Wildman: You went 140 miles for coffee.

Mr Martin: Yes, for coffee. But we were connected to Sault Ste Marie, and yet when boundaries were drawn up, particularly for federal elections, Sault Ste Marie was connected with Chapleau and Timmins. Did that make any sense to you?

Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): Wawa.

Mr Martin: I mean Wawa. I'm sorry. I got that wrong. Yes, I sometimes forget where I come from.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): Oh, really?

Mr Martin: No, actually, I don't. For me, Wawa and Sault Ste Marie, as I was saying, tend to be in many significant ways -- although some people from Wawa may argue with me on this and may take exception because they are a very independent and self-sufficient entity up there. I know from having lived there for a good chunk of my life and having actually enjoyed myself living there. I often tell people that my high school years, particularly in Wawa, were idyllic, all seven of them.

Anyway, what I was saying is that Wawa and Sault Ste Marie are connected in many significant ways. But when they drew the federal boundaries last time, they put Wawa in with Chapleau and Timmins, and that didn't make any sense. Anybody who lived up there would have told the people who were doing that, if they'd been asked, that it didn't make any sense, but they went ahead and did it anyway.

In this case, I think at the end of the day you're going to find that decisions are being made that are of the same quality. In the amalgamation of communities that's going to happen, yes, in some instances some communities will come together and say, "Yes, it makes sense." But in other instances, communities which are seen as a third entity, perhaps a little smaller than the other two, will be forced to join with a community that perhaps they don't feel particularly aligned with, and that will be problematic. But this government feels it has the power to do that, to go out there and push people together and do those kinds of things that in my mind take away, move us away, turn our back on some of the traditions that we've developed over the years, some of the really exciting and positive and constructive dialogue that goes on.

Yes, that's often difficult, and there's nothing wrong with good, honest debate where our differences of opinion are aired and put on the table. But let's set those tables. Let's make sure those tables exist. Let's make sure that people have the right to participate, whether it's through representative democracy or with direct participation in those things. Let's not take away from that. Let's not diminish that.

At the very least, if you're going to do that, let's have some discussion about it. Let's make sure we're out there talking with people about it and let's make sure we're taking the time that's necessary to do it right. Because in this instance there's no big hurry here; there's no really big need here. We're not talking about megabucks, diminishing this place by 27 members, in the larger picture of things. When you compare the money that you suggest you're going to save by cutting 27 members out of here with what it's going to cost you to do a couple of referendums -- and it sounds to me by way of the legislation that you're bringing in through another door that that's the way you propose to run this province -- I suggest to you that at the end of the day you will have lost money as opposed to saving money. I'm told that it could cost you anywhere from $23 million to $40 million per referendum.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): That's what they told us at committee.

Mr Martin: That's what they told us at the committee. So the cost excuse doesn't work and doesn't make any sense.

I'm saying to you, why don't you take some time and cost all this out? Why don't you take some time and bring some people in who know how to do that, who can speak to you in an objective way about all of these things so that at the end of the day you make the right decision as opposed to the politically expedient decision, which is what we're doing here? It just doesn't make any sense. As I said before, nobody here is suggesting that change isn't necessary, that from time to time we shouldn't sit down and look at issues such as the one contained in this bill and that we shouldn't be responding to changes in demographics, changes in the size of population, changes in how communities develop or don't develop, and be making changes, but let's do them in a thoughtful way.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: We do not have a quorum available in the House. I wonder if you would have a quorum call.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would you check for a quorum, please.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: Mr Speaker, I thank my colleague from London and yourself for doing all you could to make sure that people are present in this chamber as we make speeches about issues of importance to the people of Ontario. It's interesting to note that absolutely none of the Liberals are here for this debate, even though, as I said earlier yesterday, their member for Renfrew North gave an excellent exposé on the ins and outs of this particular bill, and there weren't enough Conservatives in the House a few minutes ago to have a quorum so we could carry out the business of this place. What can I say? It's consistent with their sense of the relevance of this House and how important this debate is.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Tony, are you going to hear the Premier tonight?

Mr Martin: No, actually I'm not going to hear him tonight in the Sault. That's an interesting point you make because --

Mrs Marland: My brother is going to be there.

Mr Martin: Is he? Of course he will be, and so he should, he's a good Conservative.

There's an interesting sideline there. The Premier is going to Sault Ste Marie tonight to a Progressive Conservative fund-raising function; mind you, paid for by the public. There was an invitation given to him to meet, while he's there, with the mayor of our city because we had some important issues to discuss, but he couldn't find time.

Interjection: Too busy raising funds.

Mr Martin: He was too busy. The schedule was too tight. The mayor after all is only elected by all the people to speak on their behalf about issues of concern to them, but he doesn't have time to hear him.

It was interesting that last night, in my discussion here before this House, I shared with this place some of the concern our mayor and council have over the direction that this place is taking, that this government is taking re how they do the affairs of government. They raised a particular concern about the move, so very obviously, to governing by referendum. What he said, and I'll repeat it again, was, "Northern Ontario's sparse population means its voice will be lost when the people speak in province-wide referendums." Now the Premier is in Sault Ste Marie tonight and he doesn't have time to talk to the mayor of our city.

As I said, it's consistent and it just helps me make the argument here this afternoon that this government has no respect for the democratic process, no respect for those who are duly elected to speak on behalf of their constituents. This piece of legislation will move us ever so significantly down a road where this place will become no more functional than the board of directors of a corporation and will have no interest in anything other than the bottom line: no interest in health care, no interest in education, no interest in social services, no interest in working with the communities of this province which find themselves challenged economically to make sure there is the resource necessary and present in their communities for people to have jobs and that they're able to make a living and look after their children.

That's where we're heading if we don't slow this down, if we don't somehow impress upon this government how important it is to take the necessary time to speak to people and have meaningful consultation.

Not to be adversarial or create too much stress across the way, but I suggest that another facet of this particular piece of legislation is that it's very obviously a gerrymandering of the most obvious and odious description.

It's funny; they didn't even have to do anything. In fact, in terms of backroom rejigging and sitting down and drawing lines and figuring out who lived where and who voted for whom, they're taking a blueprint that was put together by the federal government that will see a reduction of seats in those parts of the province that haven't recently supported the Conservative cause, Conservative agenda, this Conservative government, and reducing significantly the number of representatives from those areas: northern Ontario, southeastern Ontario and the core of Metro Toronto.

They have actually added one seat to what is now often referred to as the 905 belt, which tends to be that group of people who support the very right-wing, neo-conservative approach of this government to matters of state. In so doing, by agreeing to this makeup of the way we represent ourselves in this province, they will guarantee for themselves, as much as they can in a democracy, that they will be around.

I said last night that with the introduction of a very right-wing, neo-conservative agenda in this province in a very fast manner -- we've seen that -- and now with this piece of legislation, we will cast that in stone. That is something we will not be able to change quickly if we find that it isn't in the best interests of all the people in Ontario, if we're not able to have a healthy election in this province that gives us some guarantee that if people are upset and particular regions or groups of people are upset, they have a way of sending a message to this place by way of their vote for whom they choose to represent themselves. This, in my mind, is very obviously a gerrymandering of the electoral boundaries of Ontario to suit the interests of the present government.

The argument is made out there -- it's made in my own community -- why do you need more members in this House, as opposed to Ottawa, to represent the views and interests of the people in various areas of Ontario? Anybody who does this job or has had any reason to come into the office of a member of the provincial Parliament, as opposed to a member of the federal Parliament, will know that we deal with issues that are much closer to the ground for people, that are much more direct for people and have impact on their daily lives.

The fact that we deliver programs such as health care, education and social services means that we are out there on the front lines every day explaining to people how they can access the system so that they get the service they know is due to them or so they perhaps can get better service or so they perhaps can put in a complaint about the fact that they didn't get something they felt they should have got.

When we, as provincial members, go back to our constituencies -- I'll talk about that a little further as I talk about the role of members in this place -- it's important that we have manageable jurisdictions, that we have a manageable number of people we represent and that geographically we are able, when we go home to our ridings, to get to the communities we represent on a regular basis to hear their concerns and understand what their experience has been, and then bring it to this place as honestly and as fairly as we can and present it and get some response or reaction to that.


This piece of legislation has all kinds of very serious implications for the jurisdiction of Ontario if we let it go through as it is, if we don't make every effort to make sure that this government has to go before its people and answer some questions about what it is going to do. I would suggest to people out there, as I said before, that if they are concerned after hearing the speech of the member for Renfrew North last night, if they're concerned after hearing some of what I have to say and after reading some of what is starting to come out in the media right now about all of this and they have some questions or some interest, that they make their voices heard, that they participate in the democracy we have here in Ontario and we cherish so much, so that in this instance we do the right thing and do not just bulldoze ahead in a big hurry and destroy some things that have taken so long to put in place.

I said last night that we're under attack, and we really are. Democracy is under attack; this place is under attack by this legislation. I read a definition last night for you and I think it would be important and helpful to do it again. It's a definition of democracy.

"Democracy is a form of government in which political power resides in all the people and is exercised by them directly or is given to elected representatives, with each citizen sharing equally in political privilege and duty and with his right to do so protected by free elections and other guarantees." That's what a democracy is. That's in Funk and Wagnall's dictionary.

Within that democracy, we establish, as part of how we do business, a legislature. Let me read to you, ever so briefly, what a legislature does, lest some of you don't understand or have forgotten or lest you're asked by your constituents just what this place is about, because there are a lot of people out there who don't know what this place is about, who don't know what happens here in this place or what we do when we come here, who don't understand the process at all. If they happen to be tuning in this afternoon, I think it's important they know so they can participate more fully in the discussion.

"The role of the Legislature: A legislature makes laws; its members are legislators. Ontario's legislators are the 130 elected members of provincial Parliament, also known as MPPs. The province is divided into 130 constituencies, or ridings, and each MPP represents one of these electoral districts. Although MPPs work year-round, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario only meets at Queen's Park from March to June and from September to December. During those months, MPPs study and debate the bills (proposed laws) and policies put before them, generally by the government. It is their job to explore" -- and this is where it becomes really important for people to listen, because this is what's going to be inhibited by way of this bill -- "all arguments for and against each proposal. In that way, each member can weigh the views and concerns of voters" -- their constituents, the people they represent -- "and fellow MPPs before deciding whether to support or reject any given measure."

That's what we do here. I don't know a member in this place -- however, I have to qualify that by saying I don't know all members in this place, but the members I do know, I know they take that job very seriously and they work very hard at being up on the various pieces of legislation that are coming before this House, researching and reading and meeting with people so that they might participate in a meaningful way in the debate and in the discussion.

To attack in any way the integrity of this place, and I'm saying to you today that this bill is in fact an attack on this place, is to demean, to take away, to diminish the very good work that we do here and in the exercise of our participating in the debate and listening to the debate on behalf of our constituents, of our voters. Not to be able to represent them in a way that we feel does them justice is a diminishing of democracy, a reducing of the ability of this place to make laws that will be supportive of an improvement in the quality of life of all of the people who choose Ontario as their home.

By the way, I just want to say I've got a fair bit of material here that I'm referring to this afternoon and it's important material and I got a lot of help from the legislative library in putting this together. I want to say thanks to them for their assistance, particularly Susanne Hynes, who on very short notice did a lot of good work for me in trying to pull together the pieces that I needed to make a cogent argument here this afternoon for, if not the stopping of this bill, the rethinking of the government around this bill, but at least the slowing of it down so that we can have proper and fuller public consultation about it so that people out there will know what it is that the government is intending, why it is they're intending to do this and what the ultimate result will be or impact will be on their lives, on the lives of their families and friends and on the lives of their communities.

So we have a democracy, we have a Legislature within a democracy that represents the views and voices of people as we make laws that affect all of us, as we decide how we're going to collect taxes, as we decide how we're going to spend the money that we collect and how we deliver services and how much money we spend on each. It's very important, it's essential, that each person in this province is confident that they have a voice, that they have some place that they can go to express a concern, a support or to be critical of what it is that the government is doing.

Within that Legislature we have what are called the members -- myself, the member for London Centre, the member for Algoma, Liberals, New Democrats, Conservatives, all of us who present ourselves at election time, who come to that exercise from having in many instances worked very hard in our communities to make life better, sometimes as a businessperson, sometimes as a lawyer, sometimes as a teacher, sometimes as a community development professional or a social activist. But we all come from places where we've had our own set of experiences, where we've learned what it is to live life in a particular community in a particular way. Through a thoughtful process of self-analysis, through sitting with family members, through talking with friends and colleagues in the community and with the support of our political parties, we present ourselves for election to this place.

When you juxtapose that with the complicity of this government in everything out there today that is so negative and critical and demeaning of politicians, I guess it begins to make some sense again. There are many of us here who do not hold the view of so many across the way and so many people out there in Ontario that we politicians are simply pigs at the trough or people who come to this job because of the pay that goes with it or the gold-plated pension plan, as the member for Renfrew North talked about yesterday. As a matter of fact, I'd suggest to you that probably most of us, at least the ones I know of and talk to, didn't know what the pay was when they came here. They had no idea what it was they were going to get when they came to this place.


Mr Preston: Sure we did.

Mr Martin: I'll tell you my own experience. The first time I knew what I was getting paid, other than the fact that I got a paycheque at the end of the first month, was when I read it all laid out in my own local newspaper. There it was. I took it home and I said: "Anna, you know all the questions that you asked me about how we were going to pay and what it was going to look like and how we were going to pay the bills in this new line of work? Here it is." That wasn't my concern. Was it your concern, Mr Preston? No, it wasn't your concern. I suggest to you that it is not the concern of most people in this place. They come here to serve.

Many of you took a cut in pay when you came here. I know a couple of people in this place, because I've chatted with them from time to time, who have worked in some very prestigious and good jobs, excellent jobs, and got well paid, who took a big cut in pay to come to this place and serve as a servant of a constituency. I commend you for that. It speaks to the integrity that many of you bring to this job that you've done that and that you're willing to serve without complaint in spite of that, and the effort you make.

This afternoon and yesterday, in preparing for this speech and knowing that this piece of legislation was an attack on all of us, I spent a bit of time just going through the résumés of some of the people here. Myself, I'm a community development professional. I did a number of things before I came to this job. I owned a small business. I was a trustee on a school board. I have four kids. I've been married for 12 years. All of those things. I belong to a church; I go regularly on Sunday. I bring all that with me. I belong to the New Democratic Party. I'm a supporter of the labour movement. I'm a supporter of efforts like soup kitchens and food banks when there's not enough money in the take-home pay for poor people to feed themselves and their families.

That's what I do. That's what I bring to this place. I'm no more worthy of this than so many of my colleagues here because of that. That's just me. Coming here, I hope I'm able to share from that experience, to participate in the debates from that experience and that set of circumstances.

Let's look for a second at the member for Riverdale. She was raised in Labrador. Since moving to the Toronto riding of Riverdale in 1978, she's been cofounder of Citizens for a Safe Environment, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Defence Fund, director of the Co-op Housing Federation of Toronto, cofounder of the Bain Avenue Day Care centre and president of the Bain Avenue Housing Co-op, and it goes on.

The member for Beaches-Woodbine: Before being elected to the Legislature, Ms Lankin was provincial negotiator with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. As equal opportunities coordinator, she worked to change attitudes and improve working conditions for women. She also spent three years as a member of the workers' compensation tribunal. Ms Lankin joined the Ontario public service in 1976 as a correctional officer at Toronto's Don jail. What a wealth of experience. What a resource sent to this place by the constituents of the riding of Beaches-Woodbine.

We have 130 such people sent to this place with varying degrees of experience and knowledge and understanding and different views. That's the richness of Ontario. The richness of this Legislature is that always, it seems, we have a nice mix of people around the table here who bring different perspectives and views. We don't always agree. We would have preferred not to be knocked out of government in 1995. We would have preferred to have been in the majority, but you are now, and in two or three years who knows what's going to happen?

With this bill, though, you're padding it for yourselves so that there's less chance of your getting defeated, and that's unfair. That's changing the rules in midstream and it's gerrymandering. We didn't do that. We came in here for four or five years and worked hard to put an imprint on the daily life of people in this province. We brought in laws, we changed the way we work together and the approach to a whole lot of issues in this province, and then we went to the electors after four or five years and they gave us a message.


Mr Martin: No, no. You're wanting, in a month and a half in this place, to change the way we do that so that you're guaranteed, as much as you can be, as I said before, in a democracy, because even in areas where we feel we're guaranteed we're going to win, people can change their mind and have done so in this country and this province in the last few elections, both federally and provincially.

They may do that to you, so be careful. But for God's sake don't change the rules in midstream so that it's padded in your favour, which is what you're doing here. This is what you're doing. The areas where you're taking away membership to this place are areas where you are not getting members elected. You couldn't beat us in the election --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Take the riding away.

Mr Martin: Exactly. You couldn't beat the member for Lake Nipigon in the election, so what are you going to do? You're going to take his riding away. He's not the only one. That's what you're doing.

Mr Pettit: They're not our boundaries.

Mr Silipo: They're not our boundaries.

Mr Martin: That's right, exactly, they're not our boundaries, so why don't we make them our boundaries? Why don't we go out and talk to the folks out there? Why don't we spend the time in this House that's necessary to have this debate at length and make them our boundaries, make them meaningful, make this place a meaningful place for the kind of debate that we should have, that lives up to the respect people have for our Legislature?

I have a little book here that's called Government Caucus Members Biographies. I know who you guys are. Let's just pick a couple. Mr Gary Leadston, Kitchener-Wilmot: "Until his election, Mr Leadston was employed as an attendance counsellor with the Waterloo County Board of Education, a position he held for 27 years. For eight years prior to that, he was a police constable with the Kitchener police department. Mr Leadston is a graduate of the Ontario Police College and has studied psychology and sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University." A good man, a man sent here by his constituents; a good person, sent here by his constituents.

Why are you being complicit out there with those who would hammer and smash politicians and knock us down and call us all kinds of rude names and make accusations about us that are just totally untrue, when you know that in all the caucuses here we have honourable people who serve their constituents above and beyond the call of duty, who work hard in this place and who want to see this place operate in an effective and meaningful fashion on behalf of the people they represent?

Mr Preston, Brant-Haldimand, born in Hamilton, 19 -- no, I shouldn't say that. Should I give the year of your birth? It's 1935.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's private information.

Mr Martin: It's published. You're next.

"Preston spent six years as a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Canadian Engineers. After several years in the insurance sector in sales, management and the operation of his own agency, he founded Preston House in 1984, a group home for boys in need between the ages of 12 and 18."

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): So he's qualified to comment on child care issues.

Mr Martin: Absolutely. So let's give him the opportunity to do that. He's a man who brings a wealth of experience to this place. Why are you always in such a big hurry to ram legislation through, to not take the time to hear from Mr Preston? How many times have you stood in this House, Mr Preston, and spoken to the issues of the day and for how long? For five or 10 minutes at a time when you're given an opportunity.

Most of you, and it's too bad, stand up and read prepared texts. I know you have something to say. I know you've come from a place where you have constituents, when you go home, who come to you and sit down and talk to you about how the health care system or the education system or the social service system affects them, and you want to come and share that here but you're not given the opportunity to.

Let's look at some Liberals. We've got some wonderful Liberals here.

Interjection: Not here.

Mr Martin: Not here. No, they're not here right now, but they're around.


Interjection: One's here.

Mr Martin: Oh, I'm sorry, the leader's here.


Mr Martin: Absolutely. I don't know what I did with my list.


The Acting Speaker: Order. There's too much shouting and talking. I ask the member for Sault Ste Marie to bring his debate within the terms of the bill.

Mr Martin: Sorry, Speaker. Thank you very much.

Mr Pouliot: It's these people. He has lost his Liberal list, maybe to the left, maybe to the right.

Mr Martin: It's okay, I have it.

We have some very honourable and wonderful members represented in this House under the banner of the Liberal Party of Ontario, including among them the leader who is in the House right now and listening to this debate and very interested in this debate because this piece of legislation is going to affect, very directly and in a negative way, that part of this province that she and I love very much, northern Ontario.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): That's right.

Mr Martin: That's right.

Mrs Marland: Are you going to read mine?

Mr Martin: Sure, I'll read yours: "Margaret Marland who ran to be Speaker of the House," and should have been elected, but here we go.

Mrs McLeod: Should we give a test? Does anybody know that Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay are in northern Ontario?

Mr Martin: That's a good question. Does anybody across --

The Acting Speaker: Order.


The Acting Speaker: Order. I did implore the members to bring themselves to order, and to some extent they have complied. But one of the things I said that maybe the member for Sault Ste Marie didn't get was that I wanted him to bring the context of his debate within the bill, please.

Mr Martin: It obviously is. This bill, I said in my opening statement, is an attack on the members of this place, is an attack on politicians in this province, and I resent that. I stand here publicly to say that, and I'm not at all concerned in doing that.

I'm just reading the biographies of some of the members so that people out there know who is serving them and that we have a wonderful group of people here who work very hard and who have the best interests of their constituencies in mind. They should be allowed to participate more fully in the debate of this place and on this bill, rammed through in less than a month and a half, that will change the face of this province as it's represented in this House. To be done in such an offhand, almost unthoughtful, manner does not respect the role of the members of this place. It's going to diminish the number of us by 27, which will diminish, in my mind, the democracy that we've all come to appreciate and to enjoy.

The member for Mississauga South: "The Mississauga South MPP, sponsors many public forums and seminars each year in her constituency, including a Valentine's Day blood donor clinic and a seniors' seminar. The Mississauga City Centre Rotary Club, of which she is an honorary member, is only one of the many organizations that have benefited from Mrs Marland's community efforts. Others include the United Way of Peel Region and the Mississauga Women's Hospital Auxiliary. She is also a past member of the boards of governors of Sheridan College and the Oakville-Trafalgar Hospital."

Interjection: Is that one going?

Mr Martin: Is that one going to be closed down?

Mrs Marland: No, of course not.

Mr Martin: Okay, it's not.

A person I've just come to know in the last year and a half here in this House, the member for Oakwood, Mr Colle: "Best known as a Metropolitan Toronto councillor where he represented the riding of York-Eglinton for six years. While on Metro council he served as TTC commissioner for six years and was TTC chairman from 1991 to 1994. Mike also chaired Metro's economic development and planning committee and served on the anti-drug task force. He has been in the front lines promoting the economic and environmental sustainability of Canadian cities."

Another person I'd like to, ever so briefly, raise for your consideration as you consider the thoughts I am presenting re this bill and the attack that this is on this place and those of us who serve here, if I can only find it, is Mr Bartolucci from Sudbury, a teacher, a principal in the Catholic school system up there, a family man who has children and who comes to this place with a great passion for that part of the province, a colleague of mine in northern Ontario who is very, very concerned about the impact of this bill on that particular part of this province. Those are the people that this government is being complicit in attacking, in saying that somehow they're not contributing in a meaningful fashion, that somehow it's a waste of money to have us here.

What price democracy, I ask? We've had people from this country across the seas to fight in wars, to protect the freedom we know as democracy, and here we are in this House, going through an exercise that's going to diminish people's ability to have their voice heard for simply and purely cost considerations in a way that is totally juxtaposed to a truly democratic process.

A month and a half: in that month and a half perhaps two or three days of debate in this House. "Maybe," my House leader says, "a couple of days of consultation in the Toronto area where we know what the prevailing wind is saying at the moment" -- that may change -- and they will not agree to go out to those parts of the province that are going to be affected most directly by this legislation, will not go up to northern Ontario.

I don't know why. I suggest to you that perhaps they're afraid of what they might hear, afraid of the truth, afraid to face those constituents who are going to lose something in this exercise. They will not go out to southeastern Ontario and talk to the people who are going to lose a voice in this place, who are going to lose the ability to have an impact and make a difference, by what they think and feel, through their member.

They will not go out to rural Ontario. Up my way anyway, and probably in other parts of rural Ontario, the good people who work in the agricultural industry are very concerned and upset. As a matter of fact, the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture was through Algoma only about a week ago, and the first thing people wanted to talk to him about and the first thing he wanted to talk to them about was Bill 81 and how it was going to impact significantly and seriously on their ability to influence decisions made in this place that affect very directly their ability to grow food for all of us and sell it in a way that means they'll make a profit on their work.

Let me go back to some of the stuff the research people dug out for me at the library.

"The Function of a Legislature: "Perhaps the most important responsibility of the contemporary Legislature is to provide a public forum in which the actions of the government can be examined and scrutinized. This scrutinizing function operates at two levels corresponding to the two confrontations underlying all parliamentary business. The first, which is reflected in the very shape of the chamber, is the confrontation between government and opposition."

By way of this bill, if it rolls out the way it should, if the trend continues, you are effectively -- not by going to the electorate and having an election, not by due democratic process, but by an act of this House which you have the right to do because you're a majority government -- significantly diminishing the ability of the opposition to participate in that debate.

"The second confrontation is equally important, although less obviously manifested and usually less fiercely demonstrated. It is the historical confrontation between Parliament, answerable to the people, and the executive appointed by the crown."

I don't need to say a whole lot more about that because my colleague from Renfrew North spoke about that yesterday in a very clear and eloquent way: that this government is going to reduce the House, but not, along with that, significantly reduce the resource of the executive arm of this government.

That's what the Legislature is about and it doesn't work unless you have members who represent constituents in the kinds of numbers and in ways that are effective. I know when I go back to Sault Ste Marie on a Thursday night I spend all day Friday, from early morning, usually a breakfast meeting, into the night, where I go to a public function of some sort to hear what people have to say or to participate in a celebration of some sort, but all day Friday I spend listening to and talking with my constituents -- all day.

Saturday, because I have four young children at home, I try to limit the amount of work I do, but invariably I end up working Saturday. I have a meeting or two usually in the morning and something in the afternoon, and oftentimes there's a celebration again of some sort on Saturday night. There's a tug and a pull to go to as many of those as you can, because people want you there. They want their member. They don't necessarily want Tony Martin there; they want their member of Parliament. They want the person they elected to represent them at Queen's Park to be at these functions because it's important for them. It adds an air of credibility or specialness to the event if we're there.


You all know that. You all go to those things. You go home on Friday and you work all day, on Saturday you work, and then Sundays -- well, I know I try desperately to keep Sunday free for family but it's not always possible. Sometimes we have to come back down here because there are meetings early Monday morning or Sunday night, and sometimes there are just events in your community. I don't know what other members do, but I try to have stuff that I do on Sunday involve my family so that I can double up, so I can make it a family event as well as a public event and in that way do my job.

All that is to say to you that this place only works effectively if we have members here who are capable and able and up to the task, and I suggest to you that we have a ton of them. We represent jurisdictions that are workable. You can go home on a weekend and visit and get a sense of what's going on and what they're concerned about.

My colleague from Algoma, Bud Wildman, my God, he's been in this place for 20 years now. I don't know a weekend that he doesn't go home and then have to get on the road on Friday and Saturday up to White River or Hornepayne or Dubreuilville, or if not that way, he's over in Spragge or Blind River or Iron Bridge. Those are municipalities. They have issues and concerns and they want to speak to their member. If this piece of legislation goes through, you take that plus all of Manitoulin Island -- and listen to this. Even the community of Killarney, which is south of Sudbury, becomes part of his riding. Then up north, he picks up a chunk of the member for Nipigon's riding and he takes in Manitouwadge and the thriving metropolis of Mobert. That's a huge riding.

I know, because I'm a personal friend of his, how difficult it is for him and the work that he does. Thank God he's a workaholic. Thank God he has a partner who understands the commitment he makes to this place and to the work he does and supports him in that, and has a family that does the same. Thank God for that, because otherwise he would not be able to do it. He would not have lasted the 20 years that he has here.

The pace that he keeps -- and people say of him that he has the constitution of a horse -- would in my estimation slay any ordinary mortal, and you want to add on to his responsibility, or whoever comes next in that riding if it's not him, down the line somewhere, another whole riding that is going to make going from one end of the riding to the other the same as, say, me going from Sault Ste Marie to Toronto? We're talking eight hours of travel -- no, we're talking 10 or 12 hours now with Manitoulin Island. How do you cover that area, Mr Preston? How do you do that?

The new riding that our leader, Mr Hampton, and Frank Miclash will have to come to terms around in the next election is bigger than most countries in the world today. How do you cover that? How do you represent that jurisdiction in an effective manner in this place?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): How about the federal member?

Mr Martin: The federal issues are different. They really are. The federal members concern themselves about issues of international affairs and --

Interjection: Canada pension.

Mr Martin: Canada pension. That's right. I've talked to my colleague in Algoma, Brent St Denis, and he tells me that I'm right. The issues they deal with are not so on the ground, so in your face as the ones we deal with: health care, social services, education and all of those things.

You know that, any of you who have done constituency work. Any of you who genuinely attempt to be a constituency member in this place will know the effort that it takes to be in touch with all the people who want to talk to you in your constituency. You know that, and that the things you deal with are far more personal than the things the federal members deal with re their constituents. So it doesn't make any sense that you would copy the federal boundary map for Ontario and use it here in this place. It doesn't make any sense at all that we would do that. What other province in this -- anyway, it just doesn't make any sense.

I had another little piece here that I wanted to share with you that was really important. It talked about the skills that a member needs to participate in this place and to do a good job. Actually, it's all the skills that I've been talking about over the last hour or so and it's what causes me some great concern over why we're doing what we're doing.

Previous governments had a tradition in this place of bringing legislation in, introducing it, having prolonged debate about it or bringing it to committee, and if it was felt collectively here that we needed to take it out across the province, we did that.

This government --

Mr Preston: You did whatever you thought.

Mr Martin: No, no. We took it out and we heard from the people and we made significant changes when we brought it back and ultimately introduced it as legislation in this place. This government is not willing to do that.

All we're asking as a party, as a part of this House over here, is that you take the time to think this thing through, to be thoughtful about it, to hear from people and to draw up, if we have to, a new set of boundaries in Ontario that speaks to the reality of Ontario, that actually lives up to some of the traditional ways we've done that in this province over the years.

For example, since the mid-1950s it's been the usual procedure in this province, after the publication of figures available from the regular census carried out every 10 years, for the province to look at and establish procedures for the redistribution of riding boundaries. In 1962, 1973 and 1983, this was done by the appointment of an independent commission through order in council. Prior to the commission appointments, the terms of reference and guidelines on procedures to be followed by the boundaries commission were established by resolution in this Legislature. Historically, the decision on the new boundaries and ridings rests with the Legislature. When the report of the boundaries commission is finished, the Speaker would be charged with tabling it in the House in the form of a piece of legislation. It would then follow the tradition on a regular route that any bill does in this House.

The terms of reference used by the commission for the purpose of distribution were usually considered as follows: community or diversity of interest; means of communication; topographical features; population trends; the varying of rural electoral districts; existing boundaries of municipalities or wards; and special geographic considerations, including the sparsity, density or relative rate of growth in population in the various regions of the province. Accessibility, size and shape were also considered. These were the things that previous parliaments in this House considered when they made these changes. This is what they looked at.

I'm going to wind up my time in this debate by saying to you and appealing to you about that part of this province that I feel particularly attached to and that I feel is going to be particularly damaged by this legislation, and that's northern Ontario. Over the years, this House, in consultation, through I'm sure some significant discussion and debate, decided that it was so important that we hear the voice of northern Ontario in a meaningful and full way. So we guaranteed that we would never allow the representation in this House from northern Ontario to be less than 15 seats. I suggest to you that we should continue to honour that commitment.

The member for Renfrew North talked last night about how on the federal scene we make special provisions for places like Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, smaller provinces with fewer population, to make sure their voice is effectively present in the Houses of Parliament that they need to be represented at. You're going to take that away from northern Ontario if you move with this piece of legislation.


The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I was listening carefully to the comments of the member for Sault Ste Marie. One of the points that has been raised in the argument about reducing the number of provincial ridings is the issue of whether or not the kind of work that provincial members do is more directly related to the constituents than what the federal members do. There certainly is room for argument on this issue, but I personally am persuaded by the view that the work the federal members do is just as close to the constituents. Of course, in Ontario most of the federal members are Liberals and so it could be argued that they don't have any policies to defend, but that may not be a serious point.

The issues that are dealt with by a federal member, and I have had the opportunity to talk to the federal members in the two ridings that overlap my provincial riding, would be such matters as immigration -- and I know in some ridings immigration is an everyday issue for federal members' offices -- and unemployment insurance. That is an everyday issue for a lot of constituents. They often call the wrong office trying to inquire about those kinds of issues. Income tax is an everyday problem for most people in Ontario. It is a problem that people think about very regularly and speak to their members about. Crime -- issues related to the Criminal Code and the Young Offenders Act and issues related to parole issues -- we hear about that in our offices and often have to refer them to the federal members.

Matters involving business development and programs for employment are matters which are federal as well as provincial and often take up time on the part of the federal member. Matters involving federal pensions are everyday issues that people inquire of their federal member about. Those are just a few of the issues that federal members are responsible for and I would argue that they are everyday matters that a federal member would be just as likely to run into and that require close attention for the constituent.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I enjoyed the remarks of the member for Sault Ste Marie and the special problems that confront him. I am wondering whether he was offended, as I know many of the government members as well as opposition members have been offended, by the title of this piece of legislation, the Fewer Politicians Act, whether he feels that panders to a fairly widespread feeling engendered by some who don't like government and don't like the intervention of government in their business, whether he feels that members of this House and other elected representatives should be offended by the, for want of a better word, smart-aleck title of Fewer Politicians Act. If one wanted to say a reduction in members and try to justify it, I think it would make some better sense to use that title. I wonder if the member was offended by that and whether he believes that reinforces the feeling among many in the population that indeed we are to be scoffed at or scorned as opposed to being supported in some instances.

Second, I was interested when I listened to the special responsibilities he has. Speaking of the north, I'm a northern member as well; I've represented the north end of St Catharines for some period of time and I can appreciate the difficulty in representing a northern riding. But I can drive across my riding in about five minutes and I don't see the same problem being confronted in terms of being able to represent a constituency as the member would, but I am interested that in ridings he notes in northern Ontario many members will have constituencies that will be larger than many European countries and larger than some provinces. I was interested to note that he shared with those of us who have very compact urban ridings the special challenges facing those who are responsible for large northern ridings.

Mrs Boyd: I'm very pleased to rise and congratulate my colleague from Sault Ste Marie on his speech, in which he tried very hard to explain to the people of Ontario why he believes this bill is not the appropriate way to deal with reform of this place. He is very clear that representative politics are extraordinarily important to democracy and that this kind of representation is particularly important in these very difficult times. I think he talked with great effect about the abilities and the sacrifices that people make when they agree to represent their fellow citizens in this place, and the necessity for us all to work together to ensure that representation truly gives voice to the very diverse needs of the people of Ontario.

My colleague always speaks eloquently of the north. Unlike my friend from St Catharines, I don't claim to have a northern riding, since my riding is clearly named "centre," so I need him to know that he has taught me a great deal about the real problems that go on. I'm always reminded, when we talk about this, that the term "riding" used to be the term for a particular area to be represented; it was the amount of space around which the member could ride in a given period of time. The size of ridings, the difficulty of representing the people within a riding, particularly if they are sparsely scattered over a large area, cannot be underestimated. It is to our benefit to hear from our colleagues from northern Ontario about the real difficulties of representation under this current bill.

Mrs Marland: I was commenting yesterday on this legislation in a brief two-minute question and answer, and I just want to complete that comment. It goes in hand with the previous speaker, which is what we're supposed to do in this two minutes. That's simply to say that first of all I support this bill 100%, but in doing so, I really wanted to say yesterday that I recognize, and I think all of us do in this place, that it's a difficult situation when we all know each other in this place as colleagues and we see colleagues who will be running against other colleagues in the same ridings, or who will lose their own riding completely because of the redistribution and they have to run in someone else's riding. I accept very sincerely the difficulty that presents to colleagues on both sides of this chamber.

However, I also believe very strongly in the ability of all of us as individuals to represent our people in the same way that federal members can. I can't defend an argument that we need more representation in Ontario than does the federal House. I guess I'm very fortunate in Mississauga South, because my riding happens to expand; it doesn't conflict with my adjacent colleagues; it so happens they're from the same caucus. But the difficulties of redistribution are always a challenge for incumbent members. On that point I have a lot of sympathy for our colleagues, but in terms of demonstrating what this government is committed to, which is the reduction of expense and overjurisdiction, I do very much support this bill.

The Acting Speaker: I recognize the member for Sault Ste Marie; two minutes.

Mr Martin: I thank the members who spoke for their comments. To the members from Mississauga and Muskoka-Georgian Bay, yes, there are differences of opinion on a lot of these issues. We should have that debate. That's what this place is about, what the process in this place is about, so let's have it. Let's have it out there; let's have it in here. Let's not cut this off and not have that debate, because there are important issues and we need to discuss them. The member for St Catharines is absolutely right. The name of the bill, even, smacks of a backhand to the members of this place and to this Legislature. Of course the member for London Centre and I share a lot of common views on different things in this place.

I ask the members across the way to please -- there are two defining moments so far in this government's history, for me. One is the day you announced that you were going to take away 22% of the income of the poorest among us. This bill is the second. It smacks to me of an attitude that was present for me as a kid, which is the attitude of the bully: First you pick on the weakest to make a point, and then you beat up some of your own. That's what packs of bullies do: They beat up the weakest and then they beat up some of their own to make a point.


Let me again read for you a definition. It's the definition of "bully." See if it doesn't apply -- if I can find it here. It says, "Bully: a swaggering, quarrelsome, usually cowardly person who terrorizes weaker people; a hired ruffian; a pimp; to intimidate or coerce by threats." I suggest to you that if you keep doing the things you're doing in the way that you have in this place, that's exactly what you're going to be seen as and that's how you're going to be judged come the next election.

The Acting Speaker: I'm glad you didn't use the term because I would have ruled it unparliamentary.

Hon Mr Sampson: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I believe we have agreement of the House to have the leader of the official opposition speak now and then subsequent to that come back to our side of the House for our rotation.

The Acting Speaker: Is it the wish of the House? Agreed? It is agreed.

Mrs McLeod: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I do thank members of the House and particularly the member of the government party who was to speak next in the rotation for allowing me to precede him. It's one of the realities of being a northern Ontario representative that if you're not out of the House by a particular hour, Air Canada does not wait. It's important to me, in the name of representation, to get home to my riding this evening, so I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate in time for me still to be able to get back to my riding.

I suppose I'm feeling as I rise today to participate in it that it leaves little to be said after the very eloquent leadoff speech on the part of our colleague from Renfrew North who addressed the issues of concern that many of us bring to this debate. It's not my intention today to reiterate all of the points that were covered by the member for Renfrew North, nor would the realities of limitations on the time of debate make it possible to reiterate all that he covered, but I sincerely want to commend his speech yesterday to all of those who are interested in representative democracy because I believe his message was important to the whole issue of representative democracy.

What I did want to do today was to add my views to those of my colleague and to reinforce the views that he expressed yesterday. I wanted to participate in this debate because of my belief, much to my regret, that the presentation of this bill is indeed an act of the most ultimate cynicism on the part of the government. To me it represents cynicism about politics, it represents cynicism about representative democracy and indeed it represents cynicism about democratic government, even though they are themselves an elected and presumably democratic government.

The bill was cynical from its first conception when it was presented as an election promise, an election promise which was clearly calculated to win popular support, although the economic benefits to the taxpayer or to the province were clearly minimal. It was certainly cynical in the naming of the bill, the Fewer Politicians Act. If that wasn't a clear indication that the intent of this bill was a pitch for popular support, nothing else would be. There have been many bills in the history of not only this province but this country that have dealt with the issue of electoral boundaries and redistribution of boundaries. None of them have had such a cynical name.

It was even more cynical when in presenting this bill the government decided that it had to restage its campaign event to show how many MPPs they would be taking away by again putting empty chairs on a flatbed truck.

I find it almost unbelievable that this party that won the election -- I concede that; this party won the election; they are now the government -- needs to resort to this kind of repetitious campaign event to get some kind of media attention for its bill. It's a reality that governments get media attention when they take action. It's a reality that government makes news. It seems to me as though this government is making news whether it wants to or not, and often the kind of news it's getting is news it doesn't want to make. As a result of that, they stooped to an electioneering kind of gimmickry in presenting this bill in the hope that they could turn it into a good news story. They must feel that they're losing public support on substantive issues like health care and education and social support services if they have to resort to this.

I suppose one of the questions you ask is, is this bill going to be popular? If the government has presented it in the hope of getting a popular, positive response, then you have to ask, is it going to be popular? I suspect, again to my regret, that it will be a popular bill. There is a common view, which all of us who are politicians are only too well aware of, that the fewer politicians there are the better it is. Who will really miss a few more politicians? It's easy to appeal to this view. It's a lot easier to appeal to that common view than it is to challenge it, to challenge through our words and actions the cynicism people have about politicians, to be able to say to people and to show people that politics is indeed an honourable profession, and that it is not only an honourable profession pursued by people who are committed to their calling, but that it is also clearly fundamentally essential to democratic government. It's easier to get the politically popular hit, and to my regret, that's what this government has chosen.

All right, it's popular, but the question then has to be asked, is it right? I will acknowledge that in a part of it this bill does have merit because the issue of redistribution had to be addressed. We all know that it is a reality that as the urban areas have grown, particularly the suburban area around Metropolitan Toronto, there are huge ridings, ridings with so many people that it is virtually impossible for an elected representative to truly be in contact with all of his or her constituents. We know that problem had to be addressed. We agree with the fact that it had to be addressed.

I suppose it would have been not even remotely possible that the government could have considered for even a fraction of a moment that one of the ways of addressing that problem of having ridings that were too large to be represented in terms of the number of people that had to be represented would have been to think of adding more politicians and more representatives. That would clearly not have been politically popular, even though it would not have been a very costly alternative. In my view, as unpopular politically as it might have seemed, it would have served the purpose of enhancing representation and enhancing the representativeness of this House rather than decreasing the representation.

I am concerned that the government's choice to deal with the issue of redistribution, which had to be dealt with, by reducing the numbers of representatives we have is really the wrong way. It's wrong because it does lead to reduced representation overall and it's wrong, I have to say as a northern representative, because it is particularly hard on the representation for rural and northern Ontario.

I know that other members have already spoken to this issue and I know too that people who are now members of the government have in the past been eloquent themselves on the issue of their concern to make sure that rural and northern Ontario had a voice in this place, that people like Mr Harris himself, Mr Eves and Mr Villeneuve expressed their passionate belief that the voices of rural and northern Ontario should not be reduced. It saddens me that in subscribing to this easy political route to solve the distribution problem they have abandoned those once passionately held beliefs.

The problem has been identified, has been talked about, and there are other colleagues who will continue to address this issue of why there is a problem particularly in northern Ontario in providing representation for what seems like a small number of people. We acknowledge the fact that our ridings are not densely populated. The problem we have is not one of too many people to represent effectively; it's a problem of the sheer geographic area. It's the physical problem. It's the problem of people not being able to be in direct contact with their representatives and their representatives not being able to be out in the communities understanding at first hand what the concerns of the communities are.

What will become the new Kenora riding will be one third of the land mass of the province of Ontario. Thank goodness we are at the moment represented in Kenora by a member, Mr Miclash, who flies an airplane so that he can reach the boundaries of that riding on a regular basis. To think of that riding being enlarged to the point where it is a third of the land mass of the province; it is hard to imagine that even a representative who happens to be a pilot and has an airplane is ever going to adequately understand the concerns of all of the communities in that riding.

What will be the riding of Algoma, or Algoma-Manitoulin, is as large in its geographic size as the province of Nova Scotia. Imagine if you were to go to the province of Nova Scotia and say: "Don't worry, folks, you only need one representative. That's all you really need." That's essentially what we're saying to the people of Algoma and Algoma-Manitoulin: "You only need one representative, even though the area that representative has to serve is as large as the entire province of Nova Scotia."


There is no question that the ultimate principle in deciding electoral boundaries is representation by population, but it's clear that this in its rigid application has some limitations. The federal boundaries commissions have always recognized that fact; in fact, it's constitutionally recognized that there are some limits to representation by population when it means that the representation of particular areas will be reduced to the point where they cannot have an effective voice. We know that there are minimum numbers of representatives, regardless of population, for the Northwest Territories, for Prince Edward Island. It seems to me that when you come to a province as large as Ontario and you come to the provincial assembly, there should be similar consideration given to large geographic areas that do not have large populations.

Northern Ontario, in this redistribution, will lose one third of its representatives. There is no question that in rural and northern Ontario, where we already have numerically few representatives compared to the whole assembly, the voices are going to be lessened and are less likely to be heard.

I don't think there needs to be a worry that having something a little less than representation by population in places like northern Ontario is ever going to create any danger of the voices of larger urban communities being overwhelmed. We would never be able to outvote urban areas, but I do believe that the voice of rural and northern Ontario needs to be heard. I don't think that kind of concern was taken into account in any way in putting forward this act.

There was an earlier discussion taking place about the role of provincial members in their representation. I believe our constituents need to be heard. I believe my constituents need to be heard from. We talk to them about health care and education and the state of their roads and whether they've got access to housing and whether they're getting their family support payments and whether they're having difficulty getting their concerns with the Workers' Compensation Board recognized. Provincial representation is very hands-on. You're dealing with day-to-day issues of concern to our constituents. We may not be dealing in the larger milieu of international relationships, but we are dealing with whether there is enough affordable housing in a community that people can find a place to live.

It's important that we be able to hear the concerns that our constituents have and be able to take action to respond to them on an individual basis. We are not solely policymakers, we are not solely lawmakers; we are people who are there to help our constituents access the services that government must provide to them.

I know we have a government that believes a 1-800 number is a meaningful contact with constituents. I suppose if you believe that a 1-800 number can substitute even for a regional office that works directly with people, you're not terribly worried about reducing representation. I don't happen to believe that a 1-800 number works. It certainly doesn't work for constituents in the riding of Fort William; I don't think it works for constituents even in ridings in Metropolitan Toronto. I believe that in any place in this province people want to have direct contact with an elected representative, who can in turn speak for them to government.

The member for Mississauga South has spoken about the ongoing challenge of dealing with appropriate distribution of representation. I suppose the reason I think that we need to deal with redistribution, that we need to ensure there is effective representation, that we need to ensure members in the greater Toronto area are able to have direct contact with their constituents, so we need to divide those ridings so that they're not trying to deal with over 100,000 constituents is exactly the same reason that I want to make a case that there needs to be greater representation in rural and northern Ontario and that reducing their representation is the wrong way to go, because it reduces our ability to have direct contact, it reduces the ability of our constituents to come and speak with us and it reduces our ability to be out in communities understanding the concerns of those communities.

This bill is a somewhat different bill than most of the bills we have had to deal with in this House under this government, because most of what we deal with with this government is related to dollar savings, it's related to the bottom line of balancing the budget while you try to find $5 billion for a tax cut. This bill's different.

There really are not significant savings in this bill, although I found it interesting that during the election campaign when the Conservatives were campaigning they were planning to reduce the number of provincial representatives by 30 and they were going to save $1.1 million. They must have decided that they had to reinforce to the point of exaggeration the economic benefits of this bill, because they are now reducing the number of representatives by 27 and suddenly the saving has become $11 million.

The fact is, whether exaggerated or not, the saving is not large in relationship to the overall provincial budget, and it is certainly, in my view, not worth the representation that will be lost as a result.

But perhaps for me -- and I say this even as a northern member genuinely concerned about the loss of representation in the north -- the worst part is what this bill does to reinforce the cynicism that we know is already present in the public mind about politicians and about public policy, political activity and government itself.

I have reason to speak on this because I have been concerned for some time and have spent a great deal of my recent years in politics trying to understand what we can do, as politicians, as political parties, and I would have hoped perhaps with an opportunity in government but now in a continued role in opposition, to reduce that cynicism. I want to do that because I am a politician and I am unapologetically a politician. I am here, as I believe my colleagues are, because I believe that politics and government make a difference in people's lives, a very direct difference. I believe that good government matters to people. I believe that whether we are acting in opposition or whether we are acting as members of the government party that we contribute, each in our way, to the process of government.

I am not here, and I don't think my colleagues are here, because it is the easiest thing to do. There is often a lot of personal sacrifice in carrying out our representative role. It's a sacrifice I think people make willingly and we take a lot of pleasure in our role, that we enjoy being the representatives of our community. I think one of the privileges of being a community representative is that we get invited into our community in ways that no other person has the privilege to do. But we are here primarily because we really believe that what we do matters. We want our contribution to make a positive difference in people's lives.

I truly deplore the kind of cynicism about politicians which this bill reinforces. I deplore the fact that it is presented by a government whose individual members -- I believe this of the members of the government on the other side of the House, I believe that each of those individual members must surely believe that they are here as representatives of their people. Surely, as individuals the members of the government don't want to devalue the very work that they do or their purpose in being here, and yet that's what this bill does as a result of acting on a cynical campaign commitment.

Even more than that, and I don't want to be grandiose about this, but I really believe in democratic government. I really believe in the process of democracy. We go into schools and we talk to young people about why it's important for them to get involved, for them to be concerned, whether it is in understanding what government is all about or becoming involved as a voter, as an informed voter concerned about the impact of their particular vote, or whether it is directly involved in the political process. We want people to believe that their participation matters.

People who are cynical aren't going to participate. If you believe, as surely we all do, that the whole purpose of democratic government is government by the people, of the people, for the people, clearly democracy itself cannot survive unless the people participate. It must be government of the people, it must be a government that people want to be involved with. If people are cynical they will walk away. They will not participate in political processes of whatever party. They will not even value the vote that they cast. When we see the numbers of people who actually come out and vote in elections, we know that we have a lot of cynical people who have walked away from the entire process.


I think that every one of us who serves in this House as an elected representative wants every one of our electors to know with certainty that their vote is meaningful and that their choice of a representative to serve them is important. Unless they do, I truly fear that the whole foundation of democracy is threatened.

I come to my very regretful conclusion that this is a cynical bill, that it is a bill presented by a government that is far more interested in political hits than it is in any kind of participatory democracy or the principles of participatory democracy. I believe it is presented by a government that is not only more interested in the politics than it is in the democratic process, but by a government that sees only two approaches to government.

One is to abandon government altogether as being not worth it, and we see that on many fronts: the walking away from government services, the walking away from government support, the belief somehow that the fittest should survive and that's all right; the view of the extreme right that as little government as possible is in the interests of the people. That's one approach this government takes.

On the other hand, where they are required to provide service or where they are still involved in providing service and want to do it for less dollars, we have a government that is prepared to impose its will in a dictatorial way. We have a government that uses the word "consultation" a lot but which, we have seen, uses "consultation" as a word in a vocabulary and a word that can be used to answer questions in question period but which is totally absent from any of its actions.

We've seen it in a government that has walked away from any kind of consultation on school board amalgamations. We've seen it in a government that closed the regional offices of family support plans without any consultation with the people who were affected by that decision. We saw it last week in the decision of the minister responsible for culture and for sports to cut the grants for sports organizations without any consultation with sports groups. We've seen it in the proposed changes that will affect the disabled of this province, with no consultation with any representatives of the disabled. We have seen it in spades in a way that we have never seen it before: a dictatorial approach to government in the setting up of a health restructuring commission that can send non-elected representatives into communities to dictate to a community what they shall and shall not do in determining the health care needs of their constituents, of their citizens.

We have seen a government that I think would be just as happy to replace elected representatives with the whole process of what they like to consider direct democracy, a process of referenda, but in fact a government that would control the agenda by controlling those referendum questions. I would be very surprised to ever see this government put a question on a referendum that said, "Do you support the closure of a hospital in your community?" I'd be very surprised if this government ever placed a referendum question that said, "Would you be prepared to give up your tax cut in order to have those dollars back in your local hospital?" I believe that a government that talks about dealing with complex issues of public policy through referenda is really a government that is saying: "We want to control the agenda. We want to control the questions so we can control the answers."

It is a fact that it is local representatives who are in the best position to hear their constituents and to hear their constituents' concerns. We hear our constituents. I don't think there's a member of this House, if you're going home to your riding tonight, as I am, if you're going to be in your constituency office tomorrow, who is not going to hear from constituents.

In my riding, I will hear, as I heard when I was home last, constituents who call me and say, "Please don't let them close my hospital." I'm going to hear from people like the parents of special education kids whom I was talking to last week, who are going to say, "Please tell them what it's like for my child to be a special needs child and to have no special education program, to be in a class of 41 other students with no special education supports." Those are the kinds of concerns that as an elected representative I'm going to hear in my constituency office tomorrow.

I'm going to hear the anguish of people. I'm going to hear from parents, parents who are trying to care for their children, who were wondering last month where their cheque was going to come from, since the government had set up a 1-800 number which was not terribly responsive to their concerns, and who got from the government the answer that the cheque was in the mail. We're going to hear from those parents in our constituency office tomorrow, who know that a 1-800 line is not the answer to making sure they get the child support payments that they need.

These are the kinds of concerns we're going to hear from constituents, and they're the kinds of concerns I don't believe this government wants to hear, which is one of the reasons why they're not terribly concerned about less representatives in this place.

We're going to travel the roads in our constituencies. In northern Ontario, when this bill is passed, we're going to be travelling a lot more roads in the attempt to hear from our constituents. In the course of travelling those roads, we're going to know first hand what happens when the maintenance of highway budgets has been reduced and our drivers are facing dangerous conditions. We're going to fight this government when its decisions have a negative impact on our constituents. I know, I believe, that members of the government, who have to fight a little bit more quietly, are going to fight equally hard to have the concerns of their individual constituents heard when the government makes its decisions.

I suggest it is no wonder that this government wants less representation. They don't want to hear the voices, they don't want to hear the concerns, so they will crack the whip. I would be very surprised if they were not able to summon enough support from the government benches, in spite of what I know to be the individual concerns of elected representatives on the part of the government. In spite of the concerns they will have, I know the government whip will manage to get enough support to pass this bill, because it will be popular, it hits hot buttons, and that's one of the specialties of this government. It's going to be passed because it's going to distract attention from the destructive decisions this government is making that are not popular.

So this one's easy. It's popular. Let it be out there. Let's pull a flatbed truck away and remind people of how we are having fewer politicians and not talk too much about what that means in terms of their voices being heard. It serves this government's purpose to reduce representation. It serves this government's purpose to limit access of constituents in many parts of this province to their elected representative. It lets this government be better able to control the agenda and better able to ignore the impacts of the decisions it's making.

This bill is cynical, it is wrong and, in my view, it is not too grandiose to say it is an affront to democracy and is entirely democratic. I regret that this bill is before the House. I regret even more that it is so entirely consistent with the direction of this government.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments? Further debate.

Mr Gilchrist: I just want to put on the record again that after I speak, and we were pleased to accommodate the leader of the official opposition, the rotation will go to the third party.

It's certainly my pleasure to rise today to say a few things in defence of and in favour of the Fewer Politicians Act. We've had some interesting commentary so far in this House, and I will couch my comments, hopefully, in somewhat less pedantic and pedagogical terms than my two colleagues who decided they'd find the biggest books in the library and read from them for their 90 minutes.

Also, unlike the member from the third party, I intend to stay on the topic, because there is to be no doubt that this bill reflects one of the most solemn commitments that we made, both as a party and as individuals, during the last election campaign, namely, the objective of reducing the size and the complexity and expense of government. Accordingly, I am pleased that the House leader has put on the order paper this legislation which now fulfils one of the last commitments in the Common Sense Revolution left to be brought into legislation. It proves once again that ours is a government that's being built on a foundation of integrity and respect for the views and aspirations of the people of this province rather than governing by reaction to the headlines in the papers the night before.

I don't wish to dwell on lofty rhetorical phrases or to couch my comments in purely philosophical terms, because the reality is that this bill serves up many practical benefits for the taxpayers in this province. I would think that every member in this House would recognize and embrace that thought. There can be no doubt that throughout the public there's a broad recognition of the benefit of reducing the size of government. In fact, it needs to be stated it was the public themselves who were the inspiration for the bill that we're debating here today.

I'm immensely proud that back in 1992, as the president of the PC Party, I and my executive members put together a policy development process that allowed us to develop subcommittees with relevant expertise in every aspect of provincial interest, whether it was health or education or legislative matters such as the issue before us here today. Over 1,000 Ontarians came forward as volunteers, at their own expense, to share their thoughts, to share their views, to tell us what goals and aspirations they had to shape the kind of Ontario they wanted for their children and their children's children. These weren't backroom types in smoke-filled rooms; these were 1,000 people who weren't paid-up Tories, by and large, just people who had asked to be part of the process.


We coupled that with an intensive round of task force meetings across the province. The now Premier and his caucus colleagues went across this province from one end to the other. I was pleased to be part of the task force on northern development that resulted in what we call A Voice for the North. We met tens of thousands of other Ontarians in the course of that. Couple that with the normal correspondence and the feedback to various press releases and a case can be made in absolute terms: tens of thousands of Ontarians were consulted prior to the 1995 election.

It is their words that were distilled down into the Common Sense Revolution. That document, which was then circulated to two million households across this province, obviously became the foundation of the strong electoral success that our party experienced last year. When our leader undertook the consultations which ultimately formed the CSR, we'd had the direct input of people from across the province. That was a four-year process. This was not some slapdash thing. Unlike the official opposition whose red book was an obvious response and a watered-down version of the CSR, ours was a well-thought-out program that touched on all aspects of Ontario life.

One of the things that came through loud and clear in every meeting, in every one of those subcommittees, was that government had become far too vast and complex. It was a burden on the taxpayer, not a benefit. It had become self-serving. It had lost touch with its original goals and objectives. It had become inefficient in many ways, and as the pyramids grew in every ministry, it became increasingly difficult for government policies, even the policies we disagreed with from our predecessors, to actually be translated down into direct action in the hands of the bureaucracy. Despite the fact that we had seen our province achieve the dubious distinction of being the most highly taxed jurisdiction in all of North America, there can be little argument that when it came to service delivery, we could not make a similarly boastful claim.

Despite the fact that over the years there had been an increase in the number of MPPs, there is no evidence on the record at all on the issue of accountability or in terms of access for the public or in terms of a demonstrable need based on workload that those increased numbers were justified. In addition, years of neglect, years of inequitable growth in the different regions of this province, and to some extent an unwillingness to tackle the fundamental democratic principle of representation by population, all of these things had left Ontario with a patchwork of ridings which saw some members in this chamber elected by five times the number of voters as certain others of their colleagues.

I come from the old school that says that the vote of any person in the province of Ontario should, as closely as possible, carry equal weight with the vote of any other person. When the leader of the third party has the audacity to stand in this House, knowing he was elected by only 4,000 people when other members received over eight times that many votes in ridings five times the size of his, I think we need no more tangible evidence of why this system needs reform and why self-serving politicians should not be the ones to stand in the way of taxpayers' demand for efficient, effective, accountable and responsible government. I'm sure even the member who is the leader of the third party is not really saying that his constituents should have five times the electoral power of, say, the voters in Markham. And I'm sure he's not suggesting that he does five times the amount of work as the member from Markham. So I think it is proof positive that we have tremendous inequities which have to be addressed.

The Common Sense Revolution, which I mentioned earlier, was a landmark document indeed, perhaps the most tangible expression of ethics, integrity and accountability from a political party seen in many a year. In that document, we committed that we would make sure that the belt-tightening started here at Queen's Park. It began with the trimming of the operational budgets of every member in this chamber -- that was put in place last year -- and reduced the budgets for every member by 27%. It continued with the reform of the pay for MPPs, which saw some MPPs have their salaries reduced by as much as 12%. It also saw the elimination of the gold-plated pension plan. This bill delivers on our third commitment, to actually reduce the number of MPPs themselves to match the number of federal MPs elected in Ontario.

The member for Sault Ste Marie suggested in his comments just a few minutes ago that this bill is an attack on the Legislature. I would counter with the obviously -- from his perspective -- radical suggestion that to not follow through on our election promises would be an attack on democracy and an insult to those two million households that read the Common Sense Revolution and cast their votes accordingly.

While there's no doubt that there is a vastly different range of issues that come before provincial Parliament, and to some extent there might even be an argument that the complexity of those issues requires marginally greater time by the members of the provincial Parliament, I for one am not prepared to go back to my riding of Scarborough East and admit that I or any one of my colleagues will take a back seat to MPs when it comes to our ability and our willingness to handle the responsibilities of ridings which would average about 100,000 residents.

There is even a precedent for what we are proposing to do here today. In 1933, Premier Henry, reflecting the dire economic circumstances in which the government of the day found itself, reduced the number of MPPs from 112 down to 90. I think it's most apt that in the context of having inherited a $100-billion debt load, the argument can be made that despite boundless optimism, despite the enthusiasm of our entrepreneurs and our workers, despite the energy, the industry and the assets of this province, past government mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility leave us no choice but to examine every possible avenue of new operational efficiencies and ways of making the taxpayers' dollars go farthest.

Yesterday, the member for Renfrew North noted that when the Premier reduced the number of MPPs back in 1933, he added a second cost-cutting measure, namely, a reduction in the executive branch. I'm surprised. I'm genuinely surprised that the honourable member would raise such a point in his criticism when he knows full well that our government last year swore in the smallest cabinet in 30 years and has reduced the size of the staff complement in the Premier's office to a level well below that of our predecessors.

Let me spend a moment on the financial aspects of this bill, because they are significant, to say the least. In the minimum, the reduction of 27 MPPs and their attendant office expenses will save $11 million for the taxpayers of this province. But the savings don't end there. We have already begun discussions with the federal government with a view to cooperating on certain technical aspects of the operation of elections borne by the provincial and the federal election commissions. Areas of possible cooperation include but are not limited to enumeration, poll design, mapping and perhaps ultimately the actual merger of the electoral commissions into one commission at some point in the future.

While many Ontarians would support such a move today, this bill speaks only to the legislative savings and those technical responsibilities that can accomplish a reduction in concert with our federal colleagues. We can leave the debate for an outright merger to another day. But when one recognizes that the cost of running a provincial election is well over $36 million and that many of those expenses are then duplicated by the federal government and, quite frankly, by the municipal government every three years, there is no doubt that a case can be made that there will be dramatic savings accruing to taxpayers.


Responsible taxpayers from across the province have told us, have demanded from us that we find ways to save on frivolous duplication, find ways to end the pyramid-building, find ways to end the justification of all the empires that have been built up in the civil service, arm's-length agencies and the like, and instead to utilize modern technology that's available to us today to come up with new and innovative means of conducting the electoral process while still respecting issues of privacy and respecting the geographical realities of this province as well.

There's one other point that really must be stressed as an inevitable consequence of this bill and is one of the most compelling justifications for its passage, and that is to show that our government is prepared to lead by example, not just within the context of our dealings with the Ontario civil service, but also in terms of our relations with the subsidiary municipal governments across this province.

When you recognize that Metro Toronto alone has 104 school trustees, a number greater than all the MPs elected to govern this province and a number greater than what we're proposing to be the composition of this Legislature, I don't think there's any doubt -- I think it's abundantly clear to everyone in Toronto and everywhere else in this province, to any reasonable taxpayer -- that the excesses and the unfettered growth of the bureaucracy, both provincially and municipally, must be reined in.

It was interesting to note that all three of the Toronto papers came out in support of this bill. I guess we have to be somewhat suspicious any time the Toronto Star backs us, but it was interesting to note that the same day the Toronto Star came out with an unqualified endorsement for this bill, it had a second editorial in it that commented that there were also far too many school trustees and that the time had come to re-examine that entire level of government. Perhaps for the first time in a long time, I absolutely agree with the Toronto Star.

You can rest assured that we've heard the clarion call of that newspaper and of other newspapers across the province and of the citizens to whom we are the most responsible, the taxpayers of Ontario. We are going to end the duplication. We are going to rein in the bureaucracy. We will demonstrate through our actions -- through our self-imposed belt-tightening, through our willingness to take on a greater workload personally -- that we will expect no less of any and all municipal governments across Ontario.

Once again, the beneficiary will be the hard-pressed and overtaxed citizens of this province. They will come to realize that their interests have not been served by these bureaucracies as they've become bloated and expanded exponentially over the years. Rather, only the interests of certain politicians have been furthered by such a failing.


Mr Gilchrist: Indeed, for the future.

Just to wrap up, the key points of this bill to be considered by all Ontarians are the following: After years of neglect, after years of the erosion of the principle of representation by population, perhaps the most fundamental tenet of democracy, this government has proved it is prepared to make the tough political moves, take the tough decisions and recognize there is a need to right that wrong.

We have continued to recognize the unique situation in northern Ontario, and while all of us empathize with the different demands of the members elected in the far north in particular, there is no doubt that there are very different demands on the members in urban ridings. It has not been stated by anyone opposite that the demands in their riding include evening meetings. Obviously, they don't fly back to Algoma or Kenora or Sault Ste Marie Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night or even for work on Thursday night. Most Metro and other urban members near Metro have demands those nights. There are 14- and 15-hour days six days a week, maybe seven days a week.

Again, I am very sympathetic to members, not just in the north but in rural Ontario, who have to meet their constituents on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as needs may be. But to suggest that their workload is more difficult, to suggest that they have greater demands on their time, I think is seriously misleading and does not recognize the different reality and the different demands on members such as my colleagues from Hamilton and other ridings around Toronto, and downtown Toronto in particular, and even Mississauga, not to leave anybody out.

There is no doubt that the demands in terms of welfare and housing issues are far greater in the urban centres than they are in rural Ontario. When you recognize that there are two more seats in northern Ontario than would be the case in a distribution that was truly based on representation by population across Ontario, I think you can make a very sound case that that 18% differential should recognize the different travel time in those ridings.

I would also suggest, as is the case, that most members in the north have embraced 1-800 numbers as a means of access to their office. It really doesn't follow that the member has to go out to all the district communities in their riding as long as there's an ability for the people with concerns to reach them in their office.

We've recognized the needs in northern Ontario, or the federal government did, by creating two extra ridings and we've continued to endorse that principle by agreeing to share the federal boundaries, which is, of course, the third point. One of the members opposite in his address suggested there was gerrymandering, suggested there was some kind of intrigue and some kind of backroom finagling on the part of our government in setting the boundaries. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The fact of the matter is that it was the federal government which, with a 17-person, non-partisan committee, went across the country, did the number-crunching, listened to submissions from people all across Ontario, and as a result of their considered deliberations came out with the conclusion that Ontario is best served based on the boundaries they have laid out in this document here. You will remember too it was in May 1994 that we made the commitment in the Common Sense Revolution to reflect the federal boundaries if, as and when we were elected. So no one could suggest we had any way of forecasting what the outcome would be in terms of the changed mix in the composition between the three parties based on the adoption of those boundaries.

We're clearly pleased to see that the federal government has in many respects adopted boundaries that are more or less consistent with existing provincial ridings and that the extent of dislocation is minimal, but that is purely and simply based on coincidence and/or the fact that it was their considered opinion based on submissions by people, and the members opposite were welcome to have made submissions themselves to the boundaries commission.

I'd go one step further to suggest that, knowing we were democratically elected on a platform that included this plank to reduce from 130 members to 103, I am at a loss to understand why any member opposite would not, in the seven months between the election and the date that the federal government passed their enabling legislation, have taken the time and trouble to send off a letter or pick up the phone and call the commission and make their submissions, and if they did, clearly again a non-partisan commission chose to disagree with those submissions and they have crafted the boundaries according to common sense.

We laid this out two and a half years ago. We made it very clear that the issue of the boundaries themselves was out of our hands. We were prepared to trust a non-partisan group to come up with the best solution on how we make this adaptation, on how we find this cost saving, and I think they've done a wonderful job.

The fourth point: The plan will save money, tens of millions of tax dollars each term of the government after the next election, and depending on the degree of cooperation we get from our federal colleagues, it is conceivable we could be talking an amount up to $80 million each term of a government.

The fifth point: It shows we're leading by example. It really is, "Do as I do," when we talk to our municipal partners. When we talk to the municipal governments, when we talk to the school boards, we can show them we are asking nothing of them that we haven't already asked of ourselves.

Perhaps the most important reason for bringing forward this bill is to demonstrate again, as if further demonstrations were necessary, that ours is a government that is accountable, it is accessible, and we are doing what we said we would do: We are keeping the promises of the Common Sense Revolution.


The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): That's certainly a stark contrast from earlier today when member after member on the government side got up and lambasted Ottawa for its federal approach to the way it treats the provincial government, saying that it was out of touch and it was going contrary to everything the province was doing. Now this afternoon, when it suits them, they're saying, "Isn't this great what Ottawa did," that we should work closely with Ottawa. He was talking about a merger of a number of different functions with Ottawa when earlier today they said Ottawa is the worst thing that ever happened and the government there has no understanding of the realities of Ontario.

I think what you have to look at, that this is really, as the member has said, about demonstration. It's not about doing the right thing for the future of this province in terms of how this province works as a democratic society.

The member talks about saving money. I just wonder how many millions of dollars they're going to spend on their referendum agenda when they're going to place referendums on the ballots all across this province. I know Mr Bailie, the electoral officer, said this was ridiculous, it was going to cost $33 million to put an item on the ballot. If they're really concerned about saving money, I would say that this is not going to do it for them. I think it might cost them more money in not looking at the cost of referendums, for instance.

I'd also say the member seems to be in love with this 1-800 approach to government. Sometimes people like to talk face to face with their MPP. They don't like to be playing telephone tag on voice mail with this 1-800 solution. Let's get down to what this is all about. This is about dealing with people on a one-to-one basis. Sure, it's messy, it's expensive sometimes, but let's remember what it's all about. It's about democracy.

Mr Silipo: I'm glad to have a brief chance to respond to the comments made by the member for Scarborough East. I have to say that I listened with some interest because this is an issue that I have a lot of interest in, as I know a number of members in this assembly do. There was one comment at the beginning of his statement that I have to say I agree with, and that was when he said that the Liberal red book was simply a watered-down version of the CSR. I have to say that after that point that he made, I've got to disagree with virtually everything else that's at the basis of what he has said, with potentially the only other point that on this one at least they can stand up and say that they are doing what they promised they would do, although I think it begs the question as to how much attention people actually paid to this particular promise in the gamut of all of the others, but I think it's clear that what we're seeing here, at least in terms of what the bill does, is what was promised.

But I think that the problem that's behind there and that I had trouble, as I say, in following the rationale that the member opposite put forward, is that he seems to have come to the conclusion that what we have in front of us is going to, among other things, improve the problem of representation by population, which he has said is a principle that's been eroded. Because if he looks, and if anybody looks, at the present system, which is going to continue under this new system with albeit fewer MPPs, it's going to do nothing to improve the representation-by-population concept, because you look now across the province and you will see that in fact a vote does not carry the same weight, it will not carry the same weight under this new system, but what will be worse is that many areas like northern Ontario and rural Ontario will be worse off than they are today.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I would like to comment on the speech of the member for Scarborough East and say that I see you have a problem. Cheer up. Lighten up over there.

We feel that representative democracy and participatory democracy is seriously threatened by this bill and that cynicism is significantly enhanced by it. The only comment where I would differ from my colleague from Dovercourt is that the only thing I agreed with that the member for Scarborough East had to say was the belief that representation by population is important and it should form the basis of representative democracy when determining what boundaries are. However, the simplistic approach he has taken in defence of this bill, which I believe is indefensible, that it is better for this province to have one representative for one third of the land mass, that there is somehow going to be an improvement because you are saying to communities -- not in urban areas. I'm not arguing the urban argument and in fact, as the member for Oriole, my riding is not seriously impacted and this is not about loss of seats. This is about loss of voice and representation and the ability of people to be heard in this place and the frustration they will feel and the alienation they will feel when they find that it is a long-distance phone call to their member's constituency office. This is a vast and huge province.

When I listen to the member, I hear his words diminish the role of members of this Legislature and I believe that is sad commentary on the member's performance.

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): Mr Speaker, I want to take this brief opportunity to congratulate you in your august appointment.

I want to congratulate the member for Scarborough East for his presentation of the government's position. I would like to share with this House my view that this bill is actually the antithesis of cynicism. To me, cynicism is if you expect other people to make changes in their lives, large changes in how they are governing themselves, what resources are available to them, and you are not willing or able to make those changes yourself.

I think what my friend the member for Scarborough East said in his remarks was that we have to lead by example. I believe it was the fifth point he made, but I would make it my first point. In order to accomplish the goals that were set out for us by the electorate, we have to lead by example. We have to be able to say we can do better with less. Just as our federal brethren are able to represent their ridings to the best of their ability, so we too can represent constituencies of that size and population. Quite frankly, in my particular case I'll be going from a riding of 120,000 persons currently to something less than that. So to say this automatically means that you will be representing more people less well is not in fact the case.

In conclusion, the way out of the cynicism that the electorate produces on politicians is to lead by the example we are setting for ourselves to say that we can do better with less and then to say to those other politicians in other jurisdictions, "If we can do it, so can you, and to the betterment of the population at large."

Mr Gilchrist: Just a couple of closing comments in response. Thanks to my colleagues from Oakwood, Dovercourt, Oriole and Brampton South for their comments.

I'd like to say to the member for Oakwood that if he was listening carefully, I was not bashing Ottawa.

Mr Colle: No, you were praising them.

Mr Gilchrist: No. It was a non-partisan commission, so unless you're giving us insider information that in fact these were partisan appointments --

Mr Colle: No, I didn't say that.

Mr Gilchrist: That's good, because then I will continue to be confident that when non-partisan people set about to do a task as important as this, they will come to the best conclusion possible. Nor did Mr Bailie say that referenda were ridiculous. He may have speculated on the cost of referenda, but he did not say they were ridiculous, and I think that's another important aspect of how we will be accountable to the electorate and be accessible to them.

A point was made about whether or not this was a well-known plank in our platform. I can tell the members opposite I personally indicated how significant I thought this was and my personal support at every single all-candidates meeting and at many doors across the riding. There's no doubt in my mind that the people of Scarborough East knew that this was part of our program; it was something I was personally and totally committed to, and I say with the greatest of respect that the people of Ontario did read that book and they did know what they were doing when they voted for it, and to suggest otherwise is to minimize your own votes because obviously the sword cuts both ways.

Finally, the ratio right now in some ridings is 5 to 1. To the member who suggested that this would not help restore the balance to rep by pop, I'm afraid the math just doesn't bear them out. The worst ratio now -- the smallest riding will have 76,000 people, the largest 108,000 -- is a difference of 1 to 1.4, a far cry from a 5 to 1 ratio that is the unfortunate legacy we inherited with the last election.


The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Silipo: I'm glad to have the chance to speak to this. I see by the clock that I won't finish my comments today, but in the time that remains I want to put a few things on the record.

First of all, I want to be clear that I'm going to oppose this bill. I'm going to vote against this bill but I don't want it to be understood for a second that I am standing here defending the status quo. I believe, and I hope to show you during my comments, that I would make some very drastic changes to the way this place is run, to the way MPPs are elected, to the way this place functions. I believe that if we really are serious about increasing democracy and the right of people across the province to have a greater say in who their representatives are and what they do once they are elected, the answers lie far beyond whatever the magical number is of MPPs who should be elected to this Legislature.

I say this as somebody who will be affected by the change in boundaries, if it comes about, as it likely will. I see that my colleague the member for Oakwood is here in the chamber today. It may very well be, some have speculated, that we will end up running against each other in the new riding of Davenport, or I may end up running against the present member for Parkdale. That may be, and each of us is going to have to deal with that fallout, whatever that is. In some cases we know -- in many cases, in fact -- members of the Conservative caucus are going to be vying for the same nomination, so they'll have to deal with those issues.

I want to say that this issue to me is not about us. It's not about how it affects me as the present member for Dovercourt; it's not about how it affects you as the present member for Etobicoke West, Mr Speaker, or any other member. This is a far greater issue than the impact on any individual member of the Legislature presently. The problem I have with this piece of legislation is that unfortunately, like many other measures that we've seen this government adopt, it takes a very simplistic approach, a very simplistic answer to an issue that I think is much more fundamental.

I'm glad, Mr Speaker, that you're sitting in the chair for this particular debate. It wasn't that long ago, before you were elected to the position of Speaker, that you and I were sitting together in a committee dealing with another piece related to this: the question of referenda. I agreed with virtually everything I heard you say on a particular afternoon when you were talking about the problems that exist in the present system of government, in this representation by population system that we have, in which individual members of this assembly have less and less power, it seems, with each government that gets elected. What we have instead is a greater and greater concentration of powers in the Office of the Premier.

That should be part of this discussion in a much more fundamental way than it obviously is so far and certainly in a much more fundamental way than it is in this bill. Were we serious and were this government serious about bringing about greater democracy, were this government really serious about giving people greater say and greater power over their elected representatives and over their Legislative Assembly, I think we would see in front of us a number of other changes, not just this preoccupation with a mathematical reduction in the number of seats with, yes, some cost savings that will come as a result of that. I don't want to play number games with people, but as if that were going to resolve and that would resolve the problems that we have, which I believe are fundamental.

Yes, there is growing cynicism. I think any of us, whether we've just been recently elected or have been in public life for some time, who has not noticed that growing cynicism is really out of touch with the people that he or she tries to represent. But that growing cynicism, I would argue, has got a lot more to do with that sense of helplessness, that sense of lack of power that people have out there, that sense they have that at the end of the day it doesn't make any difference who they elect, that nothing really changes. That's what's at the basis of that cynicism.

When people see services being eroded without any real explanation, with just a sense that, well, maybe this has to be done, that's when that cynicism grows. When politicians aren't able to have rational and useful discussions any more, when people aren't able to influence in an ongoing way the decisions their politicians make, that's when the cynicism grows. That's when people feel they no longer have any ability to control what the people they elect do, whether it's at the federal, the provincial or local level. That's when that cynicism grows. That's when people say it doesn't matter, that it doesn't matter if there's 130 or 103 or three, it's one and the same.

Having said that, I want to come back to some of the nuts and bolts in here, before coming back to this broader issue, to which I think there are some answers. One of the things, coming back to the premises upon which this bill is based, that I find really flabbergasting is to note the complete abandonment of responsibility by this government and the request to this Legislature to completely abandon any responsibility from now into the future, forever and ever, with respect to the establishment of boundaries. As you know, the nuts and bolts of this bill are all contained in four short lines, four and a half short lines, which just say, "For the purpose of representation in the Legislative Assembly, Ontario is divided into electoral districts whose number, names" -- even the names -- "and boundaries are identical to those of its federal electoral districts." And that's it. It's just saying that whatever the federal process decides is good enough for us.

Of course, others have already pointed out that the federal process first of all has to take into account a whole set of other variables.

Mr Colle: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't think we have a quorum.

The Speaker: Do we have a quorum?

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Speaker: The member for Dovercourt.

Mr Silipo: I actually have to say I wonder what will happen to the quorum number once the new number is settled. That's not dealt with in this bill, is it? I haven't found it.

I was making the point that one of the problems I have with just the practicalities of this bill, before going back to some of the broader issues that I think are fundamental here, is that there is this abrogation of responsibility from now until the end of time to whatever the federal process is going to be. Of course, the criteria that are used at the federal level are very different. I know people talked earlier about, are the federal members more important or less important in terms of how people perceive them and the local needs? I don't want to get into an argument about whether our federal members work harder or not than we do, or whether even in the Ontario context people in Metropolitan Toronto work less or harder than people who represent northern ridings. I think in our own ways we all do the best that we can and work as hard as we can to represent our respective citizens.


But I don't think that is the point. The point is that when the federal process looks at establishing the ridings, they have to take into account very different criteria from what are being suggested here. That sense of regionalism I think the member for Renfrew North spoke about in a particular way yesterday is something that is lost if you don't have a distinct process for the province of Ontario, to take into account the fact that there are differences between representing a riding like the one I happen to represent in west Toronto and a riding like my colleague the member for Algoma, for example, represents in northern Ontario.

My friend Mr Wildman continues to remind me of the fact that the distance from one end of his riding to the other is about the same distance as it is from Toronto to Sault Ste Marie. That's the present riding, which is going to grow tremendously under the changes envisaged in this bill. How could any of us who happen to represent areas in urban Ontario not want to pause and take a look at what this does for rural Ontario, for northern Ontario?

I'm not going to belabour the point, but it has certainly been put on the record that the present Minister of Agriculture, among others, made this point very clearly when he presented a private member's resolution a few years ago -- which was adopted, I believe, with support from all three parties in the House -- which said, "Look, there ought to be different approaches taken to how we establish the ridings across the province." So there is a recognition that ridings in rural Ontario, whether they be the north or other parts of rural Ontario, have to be looked at in a different way than those ridings that have a mix of urban and rural populations and those ridings that are strictly urban in their makeup.

I think within the numbers, we have to understand that those are issues that need to be dealt with and they can't be dealt with adequately by simply adopting the federal boundaries.

To look again at this question of the numbers, in some ways you could make the argument that if all you do is play around with numbers, it doesn't really matter, because whether you have 130 or whether you have 103, if you don't make any changes to the way this place functions and if you don't make any changes particularly to the way we get elected in the first place, then I think the rest of the discussion, while important, to me is not the key issue.

Why do I say that? The member for Scarborough East earlier on was talking about the concept of rep by pop having been eroded. I think if he looks at it in the context of the numbers, probably he has a bit of an argument he can make. But the point I was trying to make -- and I couldn't make it, obviously, in the minute and a half in responding -- was that if you look at the present system and you look at what's going to happen under the 103, yeah, that may get a little bit better, but you're not fixing the problem, because the problem stems from the way we are now elected. If you continue to perpetuate this notion of the single-member constituencies that we have now -- and I understand the history and I understand the significant merits that system has -- the reality is that what that results in is some great inequities in another way.

If you look at the results of the last election and you see that in terms of the votes the current governing party received, they resulted in 82 seats, as we know. But if you break that down across the province in terms of votes -- and I'm not going to talk about percentage of votes here; I'm talking about the votes received per seat -- they managed to get elected to this Legislature one member for roughly every 22,000 votes they received. Compare that to how that vote impacted on the New Democratic Party caucus. For us to get a member elected we needed to get 50,000 votes. Why is that? That's because of the system we have in place which says, really, that in each constituency the only votes that count are the votes of the winning candidate, and that the votes of anybody else, no matter how significant, even if they are, as they are in most cases, a majority of the votes that are cast, all of a sudden don't matter any more.

I say to the member for Scarborough East that if he's really interested in increasing this concept of representation by population, it seems to me we've got to look at that. I know people across the world have looked at different systems. I certainly have stood here in my place on other occasions and talked about the concept of proportional representation as being something that I believe is more democratic. I know that there are issues that would have to be worked out with respect to that, but I believe that's one of the issues we should be looking at.

I believe that if we are serious about greater democracy in this Legislative Assembly, we need to take a look at the fundamentals of how we get elected in the first place. One of the changes we should bring about is exactly to that system of how we get elected, a system that allows in election after election, certainly when you look at the last 25 years, that there has never been a party, whether it's been the current governing party of the Conservatives or the Liberals or the NDP, that has ever won a majority of the popular vote. That has never happened in the last 25 years. In fact, I think you've got to go back to some time during the 1930s to find an instance, an election where a government actually has won a majority of the popular vote and consequently had a majority in the Legislative Assembly. The pattern is that a party that wins is ranged anywhere from about 38%, as was the case with the former government, that I was a member of, to about the mid-40s, but anywhere in that range is usually sufficient for a party to win a majority of seats in the Legislature. But what happens is that on a proportionate basis this denies a voice to all those other people, to that majority of voters who did not vote for the government of the day.

I do not say this against the Conservative government of today because obviously, as I've already indicated and the record indicates very clearly, that is something which now all three parties that have representation in this Legislature have been a party to, a witness of and have benefited from. But to me it doesn't make it any more right, the fact that each of us has now gone through that. It says to me that because we've gone through that experience, we ought to now be able to look at this issue in a broader way than just this simple preoccupation with the magic number of MPPs in this Legislature.

I have a little bit more to say, but this may be an appropriate point, given the time on the clock, to stop and resume when we next pick up on this debate.

The Speaker: It now being nearly 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned till Tuesday at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1759.